Asian Women of Achievement Awards 2015: Meet the accomplished females who are flying high and mighty

Not 'at home cooking onion pakora', but at the top of their profession - that's where you'll find this year's candidates. Mollie Goodfellow profiles those in the social and humanitarian category

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Fifty accomplished women, including a stand-up comedian, a TV star and a senior executive at the world’s first Islamic branding agency, have been shortlisted for the 2015 Asian Women of Achievement Awards. Now in its 16th year, the event aims to highlight the often overlooked contribution that Asian women make to sectors including business, sport and culture.

This year’s shortlist includes Shelina Janmohamed, vice-president of Ogilvy Noor, the world’s first Islamic branding agency. Lucy Choi, the entrepreneurial niece of shoe tycoon Jimmy Choo, is also shortlisted, along with Farah Dakhlallah, Arabic spokesperson for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

The awards, which will be held in London on 19 May, were founded by Pinky Lilani, who received an OBE in 2007 for her work to celebrate women’s achievements. Speaking to The Independent on Sunday, she said she set up the Asian Women of Achievement Awards to “break the stereotype that Asian women were just at home, cooking onion pakora. I wanted to find some amazing stories”.

Referring to this year’s shortlist, she said: “What really makes me happy is seeing these women who are hugely talented but are so collaborative, very kind and humble. They all seem so honoured to be involved.”


Social and humanitarian category nominees

Myira Khan

Counsellor, lecturer and founder, Muslim Counsellor & Psychotherapist Network

Ms Khan is a Leicester-based counsellor and founder of the Muslim Counsellor & Psychotherapist Network. She works to break down the stigma attached to mental illness within Muslim and South Asian communities. She was awarded the Mental Health Heroes Award by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg earlier this year.

Parmi Dheensa

Executive director, Include Me TOO

Ms Dheensa set up a national charity dedicated to supporting disabled children from ethnic minorities and their families. She has created a range of initiatives, such as peer and ambassador programmes, to increase  disability awareness within a cultural context.

Kulvinder Kaur

Fostering service manager, Foster Care Associates

Ms Kaur, who qualified as a social worker in 1994, has raised funds for many causes. She slept rough in winter to highlight homelessness, and climbed Kilimanjaro to help young people with experience of care.

Pooja Naidu Kingsley

Manager, Coffey International

Ms Kingsley, a rising star at Coffey’s international development business, ran a £25m peace-building programme in Pakistan. She now runs a programme in Kenya dedicated to improving security for the poor, and reducing violence against women and girls.

Balvinder Sandhu

Doctor, NHS

Ms Sandhu has been a diabetes dietician for the past 17 years, helping make healthcare more accessible for ethnic minority groups. Her work has been recognised by Parliament as an example of best practice. She also leads humanitarian relief agency Khalsa Aid.

Camilla Bowry

Founder, Sal’s Shoes

Founded Sal’s Shoes – a charity that redistributes children’s shoes outgrown by their owners – in 2012. In its first year, Sal’s Shoes collected 4,805 pairs and found new owners in eight countries, including the UK.

A full list of nominees for the Asian Women of Achievement Awards 2015 can be found at