Sonal Choksi, who in 2012 became the first Indian to successfully contest elections in Antwerp, has once been nominated by the Open Vlaamse Liberalen en Democraten (Open VLD) party, one of the leading political parties in Belgium, to stand for re-election during polls that will be held in Wilrijk and Antwerp City on October 14, 2018.
Sonal, who has spent over 50 years in Antwerp, is the daughter of Sunilbhai and Late Ushaben Choksi. She has been an elected representative for the past six years and has experience in public advocacy, having worked for three years at the European Commission on various projects including for the liberalisation of the power sector across the EU.
Speaking to Palanpur Online, Sonal said, “My campaign is focused on two essential services – education and healthcare. In Belgium both these points are still easily accessible at a lower or fraction of the cost compared to many other European or world countries.”
Giving a background to her campaign, Sonal points out that many from the Indian community now settled in Antwerp have studied in local languages in the local schools. They have scored brilliantly before going abroad for further studies or successfully completing higher education in Antwerp where the cost is very nominal.
“These children have turned out to be great scientists, researchers, doctors or more. Companies such Google, Facebook, etc or even Pharma companies abroad have taken them on in key positions,” she emphasised, adding, “I can only keep on pledging for our children’s future to keep this possible for many families who cannot opt for international schools due to many reasons including economic reasons.”
Further, she explains that healthcare is the other issue which is close to many in the community and should “remain an important point despite pressures of society to cut down or eliminate costs”.
She says that one of leading professors and cardiac surgeons, highly respected among the international cardiac community for her work on women’s health, is of lndian origin and had done part of her studies in Antwerp. She is currently campaigning on cardiac heath issues especially among women between 40-50 years, an age-group in which more women than men die of heart attacks. Sonal reveals that she may soon organise an informative event on prevention to reach out to community women.
VLD representatives are currently occupying positions as Minister of Health as well as Education Deputy in Antwerp.
Sonal has campaigned among the community in Antwerp asking each and every member come out and vote on polling day and not give a blank vote.
She concludes, “When a handful of our families arrived here over 50 yrs ago they came with a bagful of hopes, dreams, hardwork and motivation. This helped most of them to be successful. Though business is slow, the situation is tough and there are other additional political and racial factors, basic concerns about essentials such as education or healthcare remain.”
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