As the daughter of immigrants, Pooja learned the importance of hard work early on. Pooja saw her parents build a better life for her family, which inspired Pooja to do the same for her family. Even though Pooja was quiet, her parents pushed her to find her voice.
In college, Pooja began to understand the importance of her voice and representation. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from George Washington University (GW), where she studied sociology, criminal justice, and psychology. At GW, Pooja recognized that the student government failed to meet the needs of all students. That’s why she advocated for student government to create a Diversity and Equity Officer position. As GW’s first Student Government Diversity and Equity Officer, Pooja led initiatives to increase opportunities for students of color and fought against institutional biases. After college, Pooja went on to attend Syracuse College of Law, where she studied civil rights law and employment discrimination.
Voice for the Voiceless
With a job at a civil rights law firm, Pooja moved to New York City where she represented the most vulnerable and made sure every community had a voice. She fought for the rights of an LGBTQ+ employee who was terminated and harassed because of his sexual orientation. Pooja has fought for equity, fairness, and accountability all her life. She’ll fight for us on the City Council.
Pooja and her husband, Vivek, welcomed their son, Jai, in 2011, and moved to Austin soon after. As a new mom and new Austinite, Pooja saw the need to cultivate community and create opportunities for other women. In 2012, Pooja founded the non-profit South Asian Austin Moms (SAAM) because she wanted to help women who faced discrimination at work. Pooja built SAAM up from a small network of new moms to a significant pillar of the community, hosting fundraisers for local schools and enriching the Austin community with events like the Smithsonian Exhibit “Beyond Bollywood.”
Pooja also has an immigration law firm in Austin. She does extensive pro bono work for immigrant women who have experienced family violence and domestic assault. In 2018, the Syracuse College of Law awarded her the Frank Morris Racial Justice, Civil & Human Rights Award for her work on immigration issues and family separation.
In addition to being a non-profit founder and small business owner, Pooja is a community leader. She served on the Mayor’s Task Force on Racism and Systemic Inequities (2016), Office of Police Oversight Task Force (2018), and Climate Plan Steering Committee (2019).
Pooja also sits on the Asian American Quality of Life Advisory Commission (AAQOL), where she works to amplify the voice of the Asian community and fights for transportation for seniors and resources for survivors of family violence. As an AAQOL Commissioner, Pooja organized town halls to seek community input and share information about the city budget and led on the city’s resolution to support sanctuary cities in 2017.
In 2017, Pooja was selected to serve on the Greater Austin Asian Chamber of Commerce Policy Committee, where she advocates for policies that affect small businesses. She was also appointed to the Austin Community College Regional Advisory Committee in 2018.
Pooja is a member of the Leadership Austin Class of 2019. She was part of the planning committee for the 2020 Austin Women’s March and spoke at that event with a client who shared her story of surviving abuse. In addition to being an advocate for women, Pooja cares about the community. She used her organizing skills during the COVID-19 pandemic by bringing a group of Austinites together to form the “Quaranteam,” which supplies people experiencing homeless and EMS workers with food and supplies during these difficult times.
Each of these experiences has given Pooja insight into how our city’s government works and what we need to build a better, cleaner, healthier, more transparent, and fairer Austin.
Advocate for Austin
When Pooja sees a problem, she takes action. It’s her instinct to listen and serve, whether it’s a neighbor who wants safer streets or a mother who needs to protect her family—Pooja will take action to help others. The community recognizes her unwavering voice for change. In 2019, she received the 2019 YWCA Great Austin Woman of Color Leading Change Award. She was also recognized as 2019 Activist of the Year by the Travis County Democratic Party. We can no longer accept the status quo in Austin. Pooja has a vision for a connected, safer, and more equitable Austin, that’s why she’s the right person to represent District 10 on the Austin City Council right now.