Award for woman who fled forced marriage

Jasvinder Sanghera ran away from home at the age of 15 to escape a forced marriage to someone she had never met. She lived in cars and bedsits after hiding for eight years for fear of reprisals from her Sikh family.

But, at the age of 24 she returned to her home town of Derby, where she put herself through university and set up a women's project from the front room of her student lodgings so that others did not have to go through such experiences alone.

Ms Sanghera, 39, now an Asian affairs manager at the Refuge domestic violence charity and a prominent women's campaigner, was last night honoured at the Asian Women of Achievement awards ceremony at the London Hilton on Park Lane.

The awards were launched six years ago by Pinky Lilani and Munir Samji to recognise all levels of achievement by Asian women in Britain, including contributions to the worlds of medicine, law, the public sector, business and the arts.

Ms Sanghera, a mother of three, was joint winner with Sheetal Mehta, a former Microsoft executive who left to launch a fund to help women around the world with a charity called Global Partners.

Her early experiences left her with the ambition to help other women, although she still receives threats from her family, who have disowned her, Ms Sanghera said.

"I used my past as a catalyst to support other women," she said. "Sadly, I was brought up to believe that to talk about your problems would be to shame your family. That's what many Asian women still believe. It is at the heart of the majority of Asian women's experiences.

"I didn't feel like a victim of forced marriage after I ran away. I felt I had betrayed my family."

Among other winners was Nigat Awan, 50, from Manchester, who won the entrepreneur of the year award for her business initiatives over three decades despite suffering from cancer, motor neurone disease and temporary paralysis.

She started off designing a best-selling Bay City Rollers T-shirt in her father's factory at the age of 18, and went on to set up a floristry business that sold to Interflora. She now heads the Shere Khan curry products and restaurant concern which provides sauces to supermarkets.

"I had had three children and been quite ill, but I worked through all of it. I set up one of my businesses from a hospital bed after I had cancer of the thyroid. I like a challenge, it's a great way of fighting your problems," she said.

Bushra Nasir, head of Plashet School for Girls in Newham, east London, who was Britain's first Muslim female secondary headteacher, was praised for transforming her school, which has been awarded beacon status by the Department for Education and Skills. She received the professional of the year award.

Asian Women of Achievement

Sudha Bhuchar and Kristine Landon-Smith - arts and culture award, founders and artistic directors of Tamasha Theatre

The two have created a company which has helped to bring Asian experiences to the forefront of British theatre. Tamasha has been going for 16 years and their production successes include East is East, Balti Kings, Fourteen Songs, Two Weddings and a Funeral and Strictly Dandia. The company has a professional development programme for writers, designers, directors and actors.

Lopa Patel - media professional of the year award, editor of redhotcurry.com

From its humble beginnings as a small cookery site in 2001, redhotcurry.com has become the leading lifestyle portal for British Asians, offering a recipe of news, entertainment information, lifestyle articles and opinion pieces. It the only female-owned Asian website and is entirely self-financed. The site now receives 5.1 million hits and has more than 40,000 users every month.

Professor Shaheen Sardar Ali - public sector award. Professor of law, University of Warwick

Professor Shaheen Ali was born in Pakistan and, after being engaged at the age of four, was married at 19 and had a daughter during the first year of taking a law degree at Peshawar University. She became the first female professor of law in Pakistan, the first woman to become a government minister in North-West Frontier province and the first female Pakistani to become a professor of law in the UK.

Ayesha Hazarika - young achiever of the year award, stand-up comic

Ms Hazarika began in stand-up in 2002 but what was a hobby soon became a passion. She was a semi-finalist in Channel 4's So You Think You're Funny, in 2003, and in the BBC's comedy new talent awards in 2004. She has performed at the Edinburgh festival, on ITV's Take the Mike, and on Radio 4's Women's Hour. She also organised an all-female comedy night for International Women's Day.

Shami Chakrabarti - AWA-Lloyds TSB award, director of Liberty

A barrister, Ms Chakrabarti became director of the human rights organisation Liberty in 2003. Born in London in 1969, she is married with one son. She joined Liberty in September 2001, and spent the next two years campaigning against anti-terrorist measures brought in after 9/11. She writes and speaks on the need to create a "culture of respect for human rights" and maintains a high media profile.

Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Mystery man: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in '‘Gone Girl'
films... by the director David Fincher
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
people
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

PMLD Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: The Job; Experienced PMLD Teac...

SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leeds: Randstad Education is the UK market lead...

SEN Teacher

£100 - £180 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: SEN Teacher requiredRandstad Ed...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£60 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Special Needs Teaching Assistant ...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?