By Ashok Bhargava
VANCOUVER: Lila Shahani was born into privilege but she is a diehard fighter for the underprivileged people.
Born to an Indian father and a Filipino mother, Shahani, who was here on January 14 to get the Outspoken Writer Award and speak as a keynote speaker at the University of British Columbia’s Liu Institute for Global Issues, on `Human Trafficking: Philippine, Canadian and Global Context’, said her mission was to lend voice to the voiceless and vulnerable people.
“My subject of interest is the disempowered. I write what’s in my head and I don’t pander to the market, because I want to remain a social critic, nothing more,’’ said Shahani who serves as assistant secretary and head of communications (for human development and poverty reduction) in the Philippine Government.
In a forceful voice, she wants the voice of the voiceless masses who are abused sexually, emotionally and physically to be heard around the world.
A widely published writer, Lila Shahani has worked for the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations Development Program, the University of the Philippines, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, and Oxford University Press.
She recently co-edited a book by Oxford scholars on Noble Laureate Amartya Sen’s theories on economic development.
Her mother Leticia Shahani is a distant relative of the late President Ferdinand Marcos, is a former senator and diplomat who helped oust the dictator and sister of former President Fidel V. Ramos.
Senator Leticia married the late Professor Ranjee Shahani, an Indian writer and professor, with whom she has three children and Lila is the youngest of the three.
A free spirit, the young writer has never hesitated from criticizing unsavory policies of the Philippine government – even those her uncle and former President Ramos.
Writers International Network Canada was honored to bestow the Outspoken Writer Award on Lila Shahani in the presence of my honoured guest, including Mable Elmore, MLA for Vancouver Kensington.
Accepting the award, Shahani said, “It’s such a surprise and honor to receive the “Outspoken Writer Award” from Writer’s International Network (WIN) Canada after my talk on human trafficking in Vancouver! Many thanks to Ashok K. Bhargava, WIN President, Mable Elmore Member of the Legislative Assembly of BC and the University of British Columbia.
After the award ceremony, Bootz Estella, President of outreach at Mable Elmore’s constituency office, commented that,“for the award given to Lila Shahani, it’s very uplifting to note that this acknowledgement is recognition for a courageous individual whose goal is to make difference in the lives of vulnerable people.”
Another person said, “I admire organizations like WIN – Writers International Network – that recognize outspoken people to reinforce the belief that we must say what is true, we must not be intimidated, and criticism must not shake our resolve.”
Lila Shahani’s keynote speech on human trafficking is here:
(Vancouver-based Ashok Bhargava is the president of Writers International Network (WIN) Canada)