Known as “the YAYAs,” the awards celebrate young people aged 16 to 30 of South Asian heritage who were born in or live and work in Yorkshire, and who have overcome deprivation and disadvantage, or successfully broken through barriers to become successful role models in their chosen fields.
The QED Foundation, based in Bradford, founded the awards four years ago. The YAYAs have grown into a key event in the awards calendar. QED was founded in 1990 by Dr Mohammed Ali OBE. Today, the charity is a key player in ethnic minority issues at both national and international level.
The 10 categories are for achievements in sport, health, the arts and creative industries, media, education, the private sector (young entrepreneur), public sector, not-for-profit sector, achievement in school or college and overcoming life obstacles. There is also an overall 2023 Young Asian Achiever of the Year.
Shortlisted for Achievement in Sport is Tanisha Jain, 20, who is the first Asian woman to be Sport Union President at the University of York, Anil Nawaz, 28, a football coach from Bradford, and 23-year-old Hussnain Chaudary, a premier level American football player, also from Bradford.
In the Health, Mental Health and Healthcare category is 24-year-old Rhea Narang from Bradford, a junior doctor who also volunteers at a charity for domestic abuse survivors. Children’s nurse Nusaybah Tufail, 22, who works on the neonatal ward at Bradford Teaching Hospital, and Zenab Eman Sabahat, 24, a PhD researcher at Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust, who advocates for race equity in healthcare.
The Arts and Creative Industries shortlist includes dancer Mohammed Saeed, 19, from Bradford, the Leeds artist Gaby Gohlar, 26, whose work helps spark conversations around the impacts of mental health, and published poet 22-year-old Zara Sehar from Halifax.
The shortlisted candidates will attend a glittering gala dinner this November, hosted at Cedar Court Hotel in Bradford alongside business leaders, celebrities, and influencers. Last year’s awards featured high profile video messages of support from the Hollywood actor Riz Ahmed, cricketer Adil Rashid and the BBC newsreader Reeta Chakrabarti. 2023’s event will feature a similar calibre of influencers.
The Achievement in Media category features 27-year-old Amani Khan from Leeds, who worked her way up from her local newspaper to be content editor at ITV Calendar news. It also includes University of Leeds journalism graduate, Mahnoor Akhlaq, 22, who works as a multimedia producer at Channel 4 News. She is up against Kimia Modaressi Chahardehi, 21, a filmmaker from Bradford who focuses on societal issues.
Shortlisted for Achievement in Education are: 24-year-old Mohammed Malik, who went from a council estate to studying a PhD in Politics at the University of York; Bradford’s Malik Fraz Ahmad, 19, who received a scholarship for Bradford Grammar School and went on to study Law. And Bradford’s Nuraniyah Maroof, 24, who conquered grief and bullying to study a Masters in Physician Associate Studies.
High profile sponsors of the awards are PwC, the Home Office, the National Science and Media Museum, Barnardo’s, LanguageCert, University of Bradford, LocaliQ, City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, MyLahore, University of York, Cedar Court Hotels, Bradford Bulls, Janan, HSBC and Morrisons. The headline sponsor once again is York St John University.
The Achievement in the Private Sector or Young Entrepreneur category features Halifax’s Safura Said, 29, who overcame an abusive marriage to qualify as a Conveyancer, 23-year-old Awais Hussain from Bradford who works as a management consultant for PwC and diversity mentor for Leeds University students, and Hasnain Akhmat, 28, who founded Bradford’s leading restaurant and shisha lounge, the Marha Lounge.
For Achievement in School or College, 21-year-old Umair Khan moved to Bradford from Pakistan aged 11 and despite being born with a serious rare heart condition, is due to graduate in Accountancy and Finance from the University of Bradford next summer. He’s in contention with Safah Aftab, 17, who has a rare genetic disorder and was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in 2022, but has ambitions to study Human Rights’ Law at university. Hammad Khan, 17, from Bradford achieved outstanding grades in order to pursue his ambition to study Medicine.
The Achievement in the Public Sector nominees are Sadiya Salim, 30, who supports children in Leeds and has worked with refugees in the city. Shuaib Hussain, 24, who worked in the Sensory Needs Services at Bradford Council before becoming a case worker for failed asylum seekers. And Maaria Shakoor, 29, from Kirklees who works in the Policing and Crime Team for West Yorkshire Combined Authority.
The Not-For-Profit shortlist sees 21-year-old Samiyaa Ahmed from York, who volunteers in refugee hubs nominated alongside Civil Servant Adnan Hussain, 26, from Sheffield, and Rohan Ashar, 22, from York – an Activities Officer at the University of York’s Student’s Union.
Dr Mohammad Ali OBE, CEO of the QED Foundation, said: “We know from the countless reports and studies published in recent years that poverty rates in the UK are worst among ethnic minority communities. We know, too, that young people of South Asian heritage still suffer from prejudice and fewer opportunities. The YAYAs are more than just an awards scheme, they’re a campaign to inspire more young people to be successful. All these shortlisted young people are important role models for other young Asians, because you can’t be what you can’t see.”
Each year, the YAYAs celebrate an individual for Overcoming Life Obstacles. This year’s nominees include Hull’s Enosh Siraj, 30, who left Pakistan aged 15 as an asylum seeker. She achieved a Master’s in Biomedical science from King’s College despite health issues that left her bed bound.
From Leeds, 29-year-old single mum of two, Mariam Habib, is studying for a degree in Health and Social Care in Huddersfield after struggling with an abusive marriage and raising a child with multiple health conditions. Also in the category is Mohammed Hamad, 26, from Bradford who was born with a rare genetic disorder, Fuhrmann syndrome, but graduated in Accountancy and Finance and works for the NHS as a Purchase Ledger Officer, despite being wheelchair bound.