Female, gifted and Asian: Record-breakers

Kate Youde and Koos Couvée profile a candidate from each of the 10 categories in the Asian Women of Achievement Awards and list the others on the shortlist

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The Independent Online

A boxer, a film producer and a prison governor are among the inspiring figures whose contribution to British life will be recognised at this year's Asian Women of Achievement Awards, which is sponsored by RBS.

Today, the IoS unveils the shortlist of women contesting 10 categories in the annual event, which acknowledges success in areas including business, media and culture. For the first time this year, there are categories for sport and community, the latter aimed at organisations promoting ethnic diversity in their workforce.

"The shortlisting judges were truly amazed by the quality of the individuals entering the awards this year, each with an inspiring story of determination, courage and resilience," said the author and entrepreneur Pinky Lilani, who founded the awards in 1999.

The winners will be announced in May. The British Red Cross chief executive, Sir Nicholas Young, heads the judging panel which includes the IoS business columnist Margareta Pagano.

Professions

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh

41, from Glasgow, is a partner at Hamilton Burns WS solicitors , where she helps Scotland's Asian community, particularly women. The mother of four has been a television actress and, as an executive member of the SNP, hopes to become one of Scotland's first ethnic minority female MSPs.

"My father was the first Asian regional councillor in the UK in the 1980s so I have always had political interest from him and acting from my mother, who worked with the RSC ... I am committed to public service and do as much as I can from the sidelines ... but the best place to be able to give real public service is as an elected MP or MSP."

Also shortlisted

Shreelata Datta, senior registrar, NHS; Dr Shivani Patel, consultant orthodontist, Elleven; Kamal Rahman, partner, Mishcon de Reya; Henna Riaz, managing partner, 360 Audit; Rukhsana Yaqoob, independent freelance education consultant.

Entrepreneur

Sung-Joo Kim

55, Westminster, London, is chief executive and chairman of the Sungjoo Group and MCM Holdings AG. She was born in South Korea, where her father was a successful energy tycoon. He later disowned her when she refused to enter into an arranged marriage. In 1990, she set up the Sungjoo Group in South Korea, a franchise retail group for luxury brands. She is also founder of the Sungjoo Foundation, which aims to develop female leaders across the globe.

"My first mission is to prove that women can be successful in business, and my second mission is to fight corruption. I want to prove that a clean-handed, transparent business model can work in our society."

Also shortlisted

Farida Gibbs, CEO & partner, Gibbs S3; Kavita Oberoi, managing director, Oberoi Consulting; Vanita Parti, founder, Blink Brow Bar; Kala Patel, managing director, Kiddycare; Kiran Sharma, owner and managing director, KIKIT Entertainment.

Sport

Saira Tabasum

21, from Bradford, is an amateur boxer, competing in the final of the British Universities & Colleges Sport Boxing Championships next Saturday, and a qualified coach. The Bradford University biomedical sciences student volunteers at Springwood Community Primary School in Bradford, where she helps to run a girls-only non-contact boxing club. She took up boxing on starting university.

"The girls love it. They just don't want to stop. They are always keen to try a new fitness routine and are always competing to be the best ... Female boxing is coming to the London Olympics for the first time, so there's a lot more publicity and a lot more girls are picking it up."

Also shortlisted

Salma Bi, executive director, Warwickshire County Cricket; Ashpal Kaur Bhogal, England Hockey; Anne Keothavong, tennis player; Urvasi Naidoo, CEO, International Federation of Netball Associations.

Media

Zarghuna Kargar

The 29-year-old from Balham, south London, is a women's rights activist and journalist. Born in Kabul, her family claimed UK asylum in 2001. Her book Dear Zari includes testimonies of Afghan women and her own story of leaving an arranged marriage.

"Most people are unaware of the stories of Afghan women, the main sufferers in this war. I was able to write Dear Zari because I was an Afghan woman. Though I lived in London, I experienced similar struggles in my own life as an Afghan bride."

Also shortlisted

Sangita Myska, BBC correspondent; Tasnim Nazeer, journalist; Monisha Saldanha, head of brand extensions, Guardian News & Media; Rozina Sini, news presenter, BBC Asian Network; Xinran Xue, author.

Public Service

Li Quan

49, living in south London, founded the charity Save China's Tigers in 2000. Its conservation strategy is to "re-wild" zoo-born tigers on a South African reserve, with the aim of later returning them to their natural habitat in China. Ms Quan, born in China in the year of the tiger, was previously head of licensing for Gucci.

"The tiger is a cultural symbol of China; it's featured hugely in Chinese culture. The South China tiger is the most endangered tiger and all tigers on this planet are originally descended from the South China tiger. When I learnt of their plight I wanted to do something."

Also shortlisted

Rachel Abraham, associate director of education, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust; Ranjana Bell, executive director, RBA Equality & Diversity; Siobhan Benita, independent London mayoral candidate; Sayyeda Khan, HR, HM Revenue and Customs; Mei Sim Lai, principal, LaiPeters & Co.

Social and Humanitarian

Jillian Haslam

49, of Hatfield, Hertfordshire, founded Help Yourself Associates, which delivers personal development training. Born to British parents in Calcutta, she chronicled her experiences of abuse and poverty in her book Indian.English. She moved to the UK in 2000 and works as an office manager for the Royal Bank of Scotland.

"When we were very poor in India and didn't even have a house to stay in, I soon realised education is everything and understanding the human mind ... is really what changes a person and turns them from nothing to something. I opened the company with the primary purpose of ensuring that we educate, train and help people to know they need to help themselves."

Also shortlisted

Rena Amin, head of medicine management, Greenwich PCT; Ummul Choudhury, trustee and director, Bidna Capoeira; Nisha Paul, trustee, Magic Bus UK; Sabiha Rumani Malik, founder and president, Sanghata Global.

Business

Zaida Patel

44, of Leicester, trained and qualified as a lawyer and helped set up law firm SFS Legal in 2003. In 2006, she started her own legal company, Equitas Ltd, with little money, a seven-year-old son to care for and shortly after a divorce. Equitas diversified into areas including litigation, marital law, and immigration. It's currently planning an expansion into London.

"At Equitas we take on a lot of people for work experience, some of whom are now going into jobs with us. I tell them to stick at it ... you can really serve the public and the wider community."

Also shortlisted

Shiela Ajimal, MD & associate general counsel, JP Morgan; Nosheena Mobarik, joint CEO, M Computer Technologies; Jagdeep Rai, corporate director, Barclays; Vicky Shu, lead project engineer, Shell UK.

Community

Sporting Equals (trustee: Urvasi Naidoo)

The charity promotes ethnic diversity across sport. Ms Naidoo, 46, of Solihull, West Midlands, a sports lawyer who is CEO of the International Federation of Netball Associations, has been a Sporting Equals trustee for three years.

"It's important to try and engage people to do more sport, particularly Asian people and Asian women. They are not taking enough physical activity. Ninety-two per cent of South Asian women don't take part in recommended levels of physical activity compared to 55 per cent of all women in the UK. It could be cultural; it could be there are fewer opportunities; it could be no one's encouraged them; ... or they've had a bad experience at school."

Also shortlisted

Cisco; Shell; UBS AG.

Arts and Culture

Uzma Hasan

32, of Maida Vale, London, is an independent film producer whose 2010 comedy, The Infidel, shown across the world, is being remade by Bollywood. After 9/11 made her "realise how important images are", the former PR consultant studied film and literature at Harvard University. She sits on the British Independent Film Awards selection committee.

"Ethnic minorities in the film industry are so few and far between, it's unbelievable. I started out [working] in the US where it is quite different. When I came back to the UK I really noticed ... here it's white middle-class men ... so you have to shout harder to make your voice heard."

Also shortlisted

Shoto Banerji, textiles designer; Amber Khokhar, artist; Zain Masud, assistant fair director, Art Dubai; Indhu Rubasingham, artistic director, The Tricycle Theatre; Gauri Sharma Tripathi, kathak artist.

Young Achiever

Reena Bagga

29, from Islington, north London, undertook a graduate training scheme to become a prison officer in 2007, after working as a drugs counsellor at Holloway Prison, in north London. She then moved to Pentonville Prison, also in north London, where she was promoted to senior prison officer. She is currently finishing her second masters degree – in human resource management – and has returned to Holloway Prison, working as a governor and human resources manager.

"My nomination is an opportunity for me to promote the fact that there are career paths in the Prison Service for Asian females. I started in a male prison and it's really not as scary as everyone thinks it is. The career opportunities are there."

Also shortlisted

Jia-Yan Gu, researcher, BT Group; Neha Jain, executive director, Goldman Sachs; Jaz Rabadia, energy manager, Sainsbury's; Tulip Siddiq, councillor, London Borough of Camden; Lisha Xie, subsurface & wells project manager, Shell UK.

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