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AWA awards -a national celebration of Asian outstanding women

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WINNERS: 12 outstanding women were awarded for their exceptional professional and social contributions to Great Britain

WINNERS: 12 outstanding women were awarded for their exceptional professional and social contributions to Great Britain

The Asian Women of Achievement Awards (AWA), in association with NatWest have announced the winners of the 2017 awards at a star-studded event in London.

The awards, now in their 18th year, celebrate the contributions made by Asian women both professionally and in their communities, cutting across a broad range of sectors from business and media to sport, medicine, culture and public service.

From the only female founder and managing partner of a private equity advisory business in Europe to a para-climber, this year’s list of winners features an incredibly diverse and exciting group of women. Despite their varied backgrounds, the winners are united by their shared ability to inspire, and their determination to drive positive change in their respective fields.

PAVING THE WAY: Rt. Hon. Amber Rudd MP with AWA founder Pinky Lilani CBE DL (Picture Credit WeShootLondon)

PAVING THE WAY: Rt. Hon. Amber Rudd MP with AWA founder Pinky Lilani CBE DL (Picture Credit WeShootLondon)


Some of the VIPs present on the night were Princess Badiya bint El Hassan of Jordan, the Rt. Hon. Amber Rudd MP, The Home Secretary; Datuk Jimmy Choo OBE, shoe designer; chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, Sara Thornton CBE; The Rt. Hon. Diane Abbott MP, The Shadow Home Secretary; and Dato’ Soo Min Yeoh, Executive Director of YTL Corporation Berhad.

Founded by Pinky Lilani CBE DL in 1999, the AWA ceremony celebrates the multi-cultural Britain and the contribution of women from a diverse range of backgrounds.


Asian Women of Achievement Winners 2017



Jaspreet Sangha, Winner of the Arts and Culture Award (Picture Credit WeShootLondon)

Jaspreet Sangha, Winner of the Arts and Culture Award (Picture Credit WeShootLondon)


This year’s winner in the Arts and Culture category is better known as ‘Behind the Netra’ for her poetry. She is a spoken word artist from East London, focused on sharing her thoughts on gender issues and taboo subjects both in the Asian community and wider society. Jaspreet’s passion, charisma, kindness and altruism shone through and the judges were immensely impressed by her poetry.



Raj Dohil, Winner of the Business Award (Picture Credit WeShootLondon)

Raj Dohil, Winner of the Business Award (Picture Credit WeShootLondon)


The Business Award goes to an inspirational woman who oversees recruitment for almost 100 branches of Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Grounded, immensely talented and with a heart and passion despite the challenges she has faced, the judges were seriously impressed with the AWA 2017 business champion who is empowering women and breaking down stereotypes.



Sunaina Sinha, Winner of the Entrepreneur Award (Picture Credit WeShootLondon)

Sunaina Sinha, Winner of the Entrepreneur Award (Picture Credit WeShootLondon)


The only female founder and managing partner of a private equity advisory business in Europe (Cebile Capital) and one of less than 7% of women in private equity who hold a senior position, the Entrepreneur Award 2017 goes to Sunaina Sinha. The judges said she was a great example of a 21st century leader, demonstrating outstanding entrepreneurship and leadership in the financial services sector.



Shay Grewal, Winner of the Media Award (Picture Credit WeShootLondon)

Shay Grewal, Winner of the Media Award (Picture Credit WeShootLondon)


Shay is the 2017 Media Award Winner and celebrated for her work as a TV and radio presenter for BBC West Midlands and Radio London. She was the first high profile Asian to join BBC WM and now presents seven days a week. Shay has carved a position whereby she is able communicate her passion for education, combating marginalisation and empowering women. A role model for all women in media.



Vidisha Joshi and Vandita Pant, Winners of the Professions Award (Picture Credit WeShootLondon)

Vidisha Joshi and Vandita Pant, Winners of the Professions Award (Picture Credit WeShootLondon)


The judges picked two stellar candidates in this category as the 2017 winners. Vidisha Joshi is one of the UK’s youngest law firm managing partners (Hodge Jones & Allen LLP). Under Vidisha’s leadership the firm has increased turnover by £1 million in the last three years. Vandita Pant is the Group Treasurer and Head of Europe at BHP Billiton, and is the most senior female Asian working in the world’s largest natural resources company. The judges praised both winners as exceptional role models who have already achieved outstanding goals. Both are exemplary leaders.



Dr Harjinder Kaur, Winner of the Public Service Award (Picture Credit WeShootLondon)

Dr Harjinder Kaur, Winner of the Public Service Award (Picture Credit WeShootLondon)


As a social researcher and development consultant specialising in child and women’s rights and gender equality, the judges said that the importance of Dr Harjinder Kaur’s work over many years in understanding issues of gender equality cannot be underestimated. She has worked for international governments and NGOs and it is hoped that this award helps highlight the importance of Harjinder’s work.



Professor Sadaf Farooqi, Winner of the Science & Technology Award (Picture Credit WeShootLondon)

Professor Sadaf Farooqi, Winner of the Science & Technology Award (Picture Credit WeShootLondon)


As the Professor of Metabolism and Medicine at the University of Cambridge and a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow, Professor Sadaf Farooqi has used her research to pave the way to treating a

condition that is often fatal. The judges praised her for the huge impact that her focus on obesity has had on society and for her ongoing mentorship of young doctors.



Sofia Buncy, Winner of the Social and Humanitarian Award (Picture Credit WeShootLondon)

Sofia Buncy, Winner of the Social and Humanitarian Award (Picture Credit WeShootLondon)


As the Prisoner Rehabilitation and Community Development Coordinator for Muslim Hands UK, Sofia highlights the plight of Muslim women in British prisons. The judges praised her for working to mobilise

deep social change within the Muslim community of Britain, creating a positive community-driven approach to dealing with Islamophobia and for working tirelessly to provide voice and visibility for Muslim women in prison who are otherwise excluded from dialogue.



Anoushé Husain, Winner of the Sport Award (Picture Credit WeShootLondon)

Anoushé Husain, Winner of the Sport Award (Picture Credit WeShootLondon)


Energetic, charismatic and overflowing with enthusiasm, the judges believe that Anoushé is a force for good! As a civil servant, para-climber and cancer survivor, her personal accomplishments are astonishing. She has overcome immense challenges of her own and yet she’s determined to have a positive impact on others, through her mentoring and charity work.



Anoushka Babbar, Winner of the Young Achiever of the Year Award (Picture Credit WeShootLondon)

Anoushka Babbar, Winner of the Young Achiever of the Year Award (Picture Credit WeShootLondon)


The judges were blown away by Anoushka’s career success to date. As Head of Regulatory Policy and Government Relations at London Stock Exchange Group, she is on a career trajectory to become one of the youngest CEOs in her chosen field. She’s regularly consulted by governments globally and is also a keen mentor and role model.



Fatima Zaman, Winner of the Chairman’s Award (Picture Credit WeShootLondon)

Fatima Zaman, Winner of the Chairman’s Award (Picture Credit WeShootLondon)


The Chairman’s Award goes to one outstanding candidate across all of the categories and for the first time since the awards began 18 years ago, the Chairman’s Award is drawn from the Young Achiever category. The outstanding candidate is Fatima Zaman. The judges believe she could change the world. Her work with the Kofi Annan Foundation, Home Office and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets to guide local and national responses to violent extremism and radicalisation is internationally ground-breaking. Demonstrating enormous resilience and pursuing the cause despite threats, the judges believe Fatima could be a future nobel prize winner.



Celebrating some of the region’s top iconic Asian women determined in challenging perceptions

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Inspiring Yorkshire and beyond

International Women’s Day (IWD) is a day designated by the United Nations to celebrate the accomplishments of women and to continue to fight for gender equality around the globe.

This year, celebrated on 8th March, IWD has been a time to reflect on progress made, and call for change by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.

Asian Express with access to hundreds and thousands of individuals through the work it has been doing with numerous organizations, both in the public and private sector, has a birds-eye view of the Asian communities in Britain.

While Yorkshire has no shortage of role models, both male and female, we present our readers some the finest Asian women from Yorkshire, who excel in their fields of expertise.

We welcome your comments and suggestions to feature further inspiring individuals from the Asian community and encourage you to engage with our media platforms to celebrate the plethora of role models we have. Email the Editor, Andleeb Hanif:


Anita Rani

Anita Rani, a former Bradford Girl’s Grammar School student, started presenting aged 14 on radio, went on to study broadcasting at the University of Leeds.

She developed a TV career, presenting arts and sports programmes and the BBC’s ‘Watchdog’, ‘The One Show’, ‘Countryfile’ and wowed audiences of ‘Strictly Come Dancing 2015’.

Last year she visited the Zaatari Refugee camp in Jordan, listening to the refugee’s moving stories and catching a glimpse of real life in the camp for a two-part television series ‘The Refugee Camp: Our Desert Home’.

Anita has presented a wide-range of factual programmes, for both the ‘This World’ strand, and the ‘Four Wheels’ series, both on BBC Two.

Her resume also includes ‘Escape to the Continent’, as well as the RTS award-winning ‘Four Rooms’ on Channel 4.

In 2012, Anita turned her hand to baking and was crowned ‘Comic Relief’s Great British Bake Off’s’ inaugural winner. A highlight of Anita’s earlier career was presenting the monumental ‘Royal Wedding’ ceremony back in 2011, broadcast live to millions worldwide on BBC One.

Much in demand, Anita’s expeditions have taken her all over the world. Anita’s infectious enthusiasm, passion and wide-ranging interests mean she is equally happy at home presenting live TV, or filming international documentaries.


Sayeeda Warsi

A lawyer, a businesswoman, a campaigner and a cabinet minister, Sayeeda Warsi has had many roles, but she is best known for being the first Muslim to serve in a British cabinet.

In August 2014 she resigned from Government citing the Government’s “morally indefensible” policy on Gaza.

In 2007 she was elevated to the House of Lords aged 36, making her the youngest peer in Parliament. In 2010 she was appointed by Prime Minister David Cameron as Minister without Portfolio, becoming the first Muslim to serve as a Cabinet Minister.

The iconic images of her on the steps of No 10 Downing Street in a shalwar kameez were beamed around the world.

In Government she led the largest ministerial delegation to the Vatican, famously declared Islamophobia “has passed the dinner table test”, established the Remembering Srebrenica programme and ensured that Britain in 2014 became the first western country to issue a Sukuk (Islamic bond). She also Chaired the Global Islamic Finance & Investment Group.

Sayeeda is Pro Vice Chancellor at the University of Bolton, an Advisor to Georgetown University Washington DC and Visiting Professor at St Marys – the oldest Catholic university in the UK.

Baroness Warsi has consistently been voted one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the world.

On the 30th March Baroness Warsi’s first book, ‘The Enemy Within: A Tale of Muslim Britain’, billed as “a vital book at a critical time” is due to be released.


Naz Shah MP

Born and raised in Bradford, Naz Shah attended the Green Lane Primary School, a proud Kashmiri by background and a very proud mother of three.

Her passions include tackling inequality, progressing social justice and developing strong and positive leadership.

The fight for social justice started in 1992 when Naz’s mother was given a life sentence for murder, her life changed overnight and she became a mother to her two siblings who were only 11 and 13 at the time. Naz campaigned tirelessly with the Southall Black Sisters and was successful in getting her mother’s tariff reduced from 20 to 12 years.

In 1999, Naz was the proud recipient of the Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize in recognition of her fight for justice.

Without any formal qualifications the struggle continued, Naz started work at a local crisps factory and then moved onto working as a carer for children and adults with disabilities.

She then went onto become an NHS Commissioner until she whistle blew which not only cost her the job but also her home and marriage. After being told by barristers from up and down the country that there was no merit in her legal case, Naz went onto fight a long battle on her own and was successful.

Naz entered Parliament at the 2015 General Election, unseating its previous MP, George Galloway, with a majority of 11420.

Since being elected in May 2015, Naz has become a Member of the Home Affairs Select Committee and has particular interest in working on issues around the prevent program, Islamophobia, integration, social mobility and poverty.

Naz has also been awarded the GG2 inspirational women of the year award 2015, and also won an award for services to social justice from SOAS University in 2016.


Adeeba Malik CBE

Adeeba Malik CBE is Deputy CEO of the QED Foundation - a leading and respected national development agency based in Bradford working with ethnic minorities to eradicate poverty, disadvantage and discrimination.

Adeeba, a former student of Bradford Girl’s Grammar School, began her career as a teacher.

As an Asian woman working in predominantly white, deprived areas, she experienced intense racism at that time. This experience profoundly shaped her career and life's work, tackling inequality.

Adeeba is a passionate individual who has held numerous Ministerial and Non-Ministerial board level appointments in large, complex and diverse organisations, spanning regeneration, small business, arts and culture and health.

Over the last 18-years, positions included the Yorkshire Forward, British Waterways, Home Office's Advisory Board on Naturalisation and Immigration and Women and Work Commission. She was the first Asian woman or non-white person to serve on most of these boards.

She is listed in the ‘Who's Who’ and on a number of ‘Power Lists’ and has won numerous regional and national awards.

Adeeba has made and continues to make a staggering contribution to creating stronger communities. Her work as an Asian woman in mainstream British institutions makes her an inspiring role model.

In 2004, she was awarded an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.

Adeeba Malik was one of just two Muslims (and the only Muslim woman) to receive a CBE in the 2015 New Year's Honours List.


Saira Ali

Born in Pakistan came to UK as a toddler, Saira Ali grew up in Little Horton and Great Horton, attending Buttershaw Upper School.

After obtaining a first class honours degree from Leeds Metroplitan University went to study European Masters in LA in the Netherlands, working with some of the countries top architects.

On her return to the UK, she secured a highly competitive role at Chris Blandford Associates, one of the countries leading multi disciplinary landscape design and environmental consultancies in the country.

Fiercely Bradfordian, Saira came back to her roots with a passion to “contribute to “the city that has so much potential.”

Over 20-years working as a Landscape Architect and Team leader of Landscape, Design and Conservation, Bradford Council.

She’s been responsible for delivering many regeneration schemes including securing funding and implementing Environmental Improvement Strategies for the physical regeneration of key sites throughout the city.

Her recent work includes City Centre Regeneration, Kirkgate public realm, the Broadway, sites in and around Manningham, Toller, Great Horton and Scholmore, Tour de France and Tour de Yorkshire.

Last year Saira became Team leader of Landscape Design and Conservation, and provides high quality landscape, planning and conservation design expertise and assistance. She’s also led on Green Infrastructure (GI) and sit on The Green streets steering group advising on GI on a regional level.

Her new role is conserving and highlight the rich heritage of Bradford and at the same time designing for the future.


Geetha Upadhaya

Born in Chennai, India, Geetha had her early education in Presentation Convent and later qualified in medicine from the Madras University to obtained an M.D in Chemical Pathology and a Ph.D on Trace elements and Cancer.

In 1991 she moved to UK and worked as a Consultant in Guy’s Hospital, London and at the Hull Royal Infirmary. In 1993 Kala Sangam was established with the mission to  ‘harmonise through arts’ and  ‘to establish a beacon centre for the South Asian Arts.’

Along her medical studies, Geetha also trained in Bharatanatyam and Carnatic Music with the great Guru Dandayuthapani Pillai and obtained ‘Vidvat’ degree.

As the work of Kala Sangam grew Geetha reduced her NHS commitment and focussed her time and energy on the company which is based in Bradford in a majestic building that has now gained national and international reputation.

Geetha has created, choreographed, directed and delivered major programmes for the Millennium Commission, the House of Parliament, Royal Society of Arts for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, Harewood House etc. She has also delivered challenging work with young people and people with disability and has performed nationally and internationally.

Geetha has been on the Board of several national and international organisations. For her services to arts and culture Geetha was conferred Doctor of Letters by the Bradford University and Yorkshire Champion for Cultural Harmony by the Yorkshire Society. In 2016 Geetha was awarded with OBE by Her Majesty.

This year Geetha has been appointed Visiting Professor at the Leeds Beckett University.


Harleen Kaur

Rising star 18-year-old Harleen Kaur AKA 'Fighting Machine Harleen', is a 2nd Dan karate black belt smashing any misconceptions of Asian women in sport.

She began her journey in martial arts when she attended her first Karate class at seven-years-old after her friend gifted lessons for her birthday.

Now, at such a young age, the Appleton Academy student has claimed the British kickboxing gold in 2015, before winning a World Martial Kombat Federation [WMKF] - 65kg silver medal in Malta on her World Championships debut.

She’s the first British Asian female to represent Team England in the process. She is ranked number two in the World Championships and is ambitious about competing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

In May 2016, Harleen was crowned winner of the NatWest Asian Women of Achievement Award in the sports category and became the youngest ever winner in the awards’ history.

She spent two-months in India holding self-defence workshops and volunteering with a club called YFC in Punjab. The trip included visiting various schools and teaching sports to disadvantaged children whilst educating them about issues such as HIV/AIDS.

Harleen now trains with Horizon Taekwondo Academy in Olympic Style Taekwondo and ultimately aims to get herself a place on Team GB.

Last week (02/03), she won Student Sportsperson of the year at the Bradford Sports Awards and next week (18/03) she will be at the BEDSAs in London as she is nominated as Young Sportsperson of the year.

In September, Harleen hopes to start studying for a Sports Science degree at the University of Leeds.


Usha Parmar

Originally a teacher, Usha Parmar surprised her family and friends in taking up the challenge of leading Bradford City Radio Limited trading as Sunrise Radio (Yorkshire), almost two decades ago.

With dedication, Usha injected much lifeblood into the station and turned what was struggling brand to what is seen today as providing valuable community service coupled with straightforward entertainment.

In 1999 Usha was named Asian Business Women of the Year in the first ever Asian Women of Achievement awards.

Usha then was awarded a further two awards in 2000 as Business Women of the Year, by the local business community and in 2001 she was awarded 2nd place in the Women of the year Category at Manchester’s GMEX.

In 2009 she was awarded by ABDN ‘Service To The Community Award’ followed the next year by a very special ‘Lifetime Award from the Hindu Cultural Society of Bradford.’

The awards such as the 2004 Media Personality of the Year Award at the Asian Jewel Awards recognised not only Usha’s success with Sunrise Radio but also her commitment to raising the profile of the Asian business in the Asian Community.

Usha’s success is built not only on her winning work ethic, but on her willingness to contribute to progression of the Asian Community.

Usha is a role model in every sense of the word for all women from all backgrounds with her determination to fight the limitations or prejudices in the business world.

As a single mother, this lady has stood her ground in her sector, which she says, “hardly holds out arms of welcome to the female owner of a commercial station in the UK; or is shackled by the outdated prejudices from the male members of the Asian Community towards a single Asian mother in such a prominent position.”

Kung fu Kaur

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WINNER: The teenager is also an ambassador for the Asian Sports Foundation

WINNER: The teenager is also an ambassador for the Asian Sports Foundation

Sporty head girl wins Asian Women of Achievement Award

A 17-year-old martial arts champ has won a top prize at The Asian Women of Achievement [AWA] Awards, in association with NatWest.

Harleen Kaur from Bradford has scooped the number trophy thanks to her dedication to the sport after 10 years of relentless training.

She said: “I was totally shocked to receive the award. I was up against women who have had much longer careers than I have, and achieved such amazing things - I really didn’t expect to win.”

A head girl at Appleton Academy Sixth Form, Harleen has held a weekend position at Footasylum in The Broadway Bradford since its opening last year and was awarded the prize for her sporting achievements.

She is also the WMKF World Champion Silver Medallist, a martial arts competitor and a 2nd Dan Black belt in Karate.

The teenager currently trains in a combined programme of karate and kickboxing and is part of the WMKF England team. She has claimed top titles in various tournaments, including Taekwondo Opens.

Harleen is an ambassador for the Asian Sports Foundation, is one of a handful of competitors in her field who competes internationally in martial arts and is the current WMKF British Champion in kickboxing and UK All Styles National Champion.

Head girl Harleen is completing her A-Levels and hopes to continue into further education studying Sports Science.

SPORTS SENSATION: Harleen Kaur receives the AWA Award for Sport

SPORTS SENSATION: Harleen Kaur receives the AWA Award for Sport

“I’m an ambassador for the Asian Sports Foundation,” Harleen continued, “so I’m always trying to motivate and empower Asian women to get involved in sport. I’ve had great support from my family and from school which I think is so important.

“It’s also great to work in Footasylum, as it means I’m constantly surrounded by sport and get to pass on my sports knowledge to customers, and hopefully inspire them to push themselves further in sports.”

Pinky Lilani CBE DL, Founder, Asian Women of Achievement Awards said, “We are thrilled for all the winners, who are united by their passion and inspirational achievements. The diversity of this year’s winners highlights that Asian women in Britain are bucking stereotypes while making an enormous contribution to British life.

“I am immensely proud to stand alongside this inspiring group of women.”

Ian Ward, general manager of The Broadway Bradford, adds: “We at The Broadway are very proud of Harleen’s success. She is incredibly dedicated and passes on her in depth knowledge of the sport to shoppers at Foot Asylum here in the shopping centre. We are lucky to work with her and wish her well with her upcoming challenges.”

The Awards, now in their 17th year, celebrate the contributions made by Asian women both professionally and in their communities, cutting across a broad range of sectors in British life from business and media to sport, culture and public service.

Cancer survivor urges south Asian women to check for signs

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After renowned actress Meera Syal joined the fight against cancer, a former sufferer of the disease has spoken to the Asian Express about the importance of checking for the signs.

Ranjna Morjaria was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 after finding a lump during a routine check of herself.

Despite having no family history of the disease, the 62-year-old explained that she made it a routine to check herself after seeing a mammogram leaflet from the NHS.

As the ‘pebble-like’ lump was spotted early, when Ranjna went to the doctors she was told that she did have breast cancer but due to an early prognosis was able to start treatment just three to four weeks later.

After six months of treatment, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, the mother of one was given the all clear and was even able to return to work.

Ranjna morjaria
Now Ranjna, from India, is urging women from south Asian backgrounds to regularly check themselves and take advantage of mammogram invites because they could ultimately save your life.

She explained: “South Asians have to get rid of the misconception that cancer equals death and that people who get cancer have it because they have done something bad.

“I would encourage others to visit their GP, sit up and take notice. Do not ignore mammogram invites and self-examine monthly. It is not always hereditary and instead could be as a result of something like stress or hormonal related.”

Ranjna still checks both breasts, after being treated on a regular basis, and continues to live a full and healthy life surrounded by her loved ones.

She is now involved in raising awareness of the disease and hopes the work with the ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign will act as a catalyst for more women to spot the signs early.

“I got involved [with the Be Clear on Cancer campaign] at our regular day time meeting of Asian Women’s Cancer Group (AWCG) which is a support group for Asian women who have been through any type of cancer,” she said.

“The AWCG were extremely helpful after my cancer treatment and now that I am better, I feel I need to help raise awareness in the hope of early diagnosis leading to timely treatment and lives saved.

“Again it is very essential to spread awareness of early symptoms as Asian women tend to be shy and therefore do not willingly go for regular mammograms and cervical smear tests when invited to do so by the National Health Service or to their GP if they spot blood in their urine or stools.”