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News ->Asian Women of Achievement Awards 2004 - Finalists


The Asian Women of Achievement Awards applaud and celebrate the commitment, dedication and determination of Asian women to their professional and personal achievements within the commercial, professional, artistic and humanitarian sectors. This year 42 finalists have been selected across eight different Award categories.


For women flourishing in the world of performing arts, management of the arts and creative writing.

Chila Burman, London - Artist

Chila Burman, a distinguished artist with a distinctive style is a role model for all aspiring artists. Influenced by contemporary pop, graffiti and film culture, her work is highly original, fresh and inspiring. The fact that Chila's art is deeply rooted in the reality of her working class upbringing in Liverpool enables her to communicate easily with what others may describe as hard to reach communities, making art accessible to them. Chila has exhibited in Canada, China, Cuba, Europe, Korea, Pakistan, Singapore and South Africa and recently completed a commission for a permanent piece in the new foyer of the BBC's Bush House, London.

Seeta Indrani, London- Actress

Seeta IndraniSeeta made her stage debut as Cassandra in Andrew Lloyd Webber's CATS and the following year moved to the Royal Shakespeare Company. In 1989 Seeta took on the role of WPC Norika Datta in the UK's longest running police drama, The Bill. In 1995 Seeta was voted Best Supporting Actress by The Asian Film Academy and despite her punishing work schedule created her own dance company, Fuego Flamenco. In 1996 Seeta received further accolade from the Asian Film Academy this time as Best Actress, and in 1998 said farewell to her colleagues at Sunhill and began working on new projects including; working with choreographer Christopher Bruce and appearing at the London Palladium. Seeta is the Vice Chair of Stage for Age and in 2003 was made a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts.

Rose Issa, London - Independent curator, producer and writer

Specialising in visual arts and films from the Middle East and North Africa

For the past 20 years Rose Issa has been curating film festivals and exhibitions on contemporary arts from the Arab world and Iran in collaboration with private and public institutions such as the Barbican Art Centre, the Leighton House Museum, the Brunei Gallery (SOAS), the National Film Theatre and the British Film Institute (NFT & BFI). Rose has also advised many institutions in their acquisition of contemporary arts from the Middle East, such as the British Museum, the Imperial War Museum, the Museum of Mankind, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Punam Ramchurn, - Communications Manager, Contact Theatre, Manchester

Since joining the Contact Theatre Punam has helped raise the awareness of this ground breaking organisation and specialises in profiling the diverse work programmed at the theatre. She carries out the marketing activity for all the shows and has succeeded in securing many rave reviews for shows in national publications. Due to the hard work of Punam the Contact theatre has been nominated for 14 awards in eight categories at the prestigious Manchester Evening Post Awards through her campaigning for the press to review the shows at the theatre. Punam has established key partnership with local community press, in particular with Hulme Radio FM and as a result of this has been invited to join the board of the radio station.

Shelley Silas, 45, London- Playwright

Shelley was born in Calcutta and grew up in North London leaving school at 17 with three O levels. Her first job was working as dresser to Glynis Johns at Her Majesty's Theatre and went on to dress Timothy West at the Garrick Theatre, whilst working in these roles Shelley was accepted at the Mountview Theatre School and was awarded a singing scholarship. From here Shelley went in search of 'proper' work and became a secretary for a technical PR firm and went on to work in a number of PR roles. Whilst working at Women's Realm Magazine as secretary to the fiction editor Shelley had many short stories published. In her mid thirties Shelley decided to go to university and gained a 2:1 BA (Hons) in English, with a thirst for further education Shelley went on to the University of East Anglia to do an MA in Creative Writing. After graduating Shelley took her writing more seriously and has now written extensively for BBC Radio 4, has held the post of writer in residence at the Bush Theatre and has written many successful plays.


For an individual thriving in corporate Britain who has made, and is making, a significant contribution to the success of their organisation.

Satya Kartara, Aldershot- Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Royal Mail Group

Satya Kartara is currently the Director of Diversity and Inclusion at the Royal Mail Group, where she leads the development of Diversity and Inclusion Strategy. In this position she has overseen the successful introduction of a new Valuing Diversity Policy across the Royal Mail Group. With over 18 years experience in the Equality and Diversity field, Satya has a wide range of experience in both the public and private sectors. Areas of expertise include HR, Equal Opportunities, Media Presentation, Government Policy and Legislation. This knowledge is supported by practical experience of HR and Diversity Management within large organisations, such as Royal Mail, BHS, Ford Motor Company and Oxford County Council, among others. Satya received a Masters in Organisational Change and Social Policy from the University of Reading. She contributes widely to academic research and writing, on equality issues such as education, training and employment, speaking regularly at conferences and executive events, and contributes to 'leading-edge' industry thinking on HR and diversity.

Erem Kassim-Lakha, 34, London -Director of Strategy, Spirit Group

Challenge has always been a magnet for Erem. Her sense of risk taking, quiet confidence and ability to adapt to new and challenging environments was instilled in her from a very young age when her family was expelled from Uganda in the early 70's and they had to make a new home for themselves as political refugees in a new continent. Erem spent the early part of her career in North America including two years on Wall Street, and then worked for strategy consultants Bain and Company after completing her M.B.A. at Harvard University. Erem joined the management team at Burton-upon-Trent based company, Spirit Group as its Strategy Director in May 2002. Before joining Spirit, Erem had barely set foot in her own local, let alone thought about applying her business skills in the uniquely British pub sector. Also, as an Indian Muslim woman working in a predominantly male industry, she was not only breaking moulds but rather shattering stereotypes. During the 18 months that Erem has been in the position, Spirit has become the UK's largest managed pub-company with more than 2,400 pubs and restaurants and 40,000 employees. During this period the company's annual turnover has more than trebled from £550 million to over £1.6 billion.

Jyoti Munsiff, London -Senior Legal Advisor and Company Secretary, Shell

Jyoti joined Shell in 1969 where she was the first woman in the legal department and remained so for eight years. She has been with Shell for 34 years and as Company Secretary, is the most senior woman in Shell International. During her time at Shell, she has advised most of the functions connected with various businesses of Shell worldwide and currently advises the Board of Shell Transport. For the bulk of her career with Shell, she was involved with providing legal advice and participating in negotiations, nationalisation, joint ventures (oil, gas and power, mining, forestry) and major projects throughout the world. In late 70's, Jyoti was assigned to Argentina for two years to set up the infrastructure for a new exploration and production venture and was briefly the Billiton representative for their mining business. For a period of two years in the mid 80's, she was the first woman to be appointed to a position known as the Secretary to the Committee of Managing Directors. Since 1989 she has headed up several different groups of lawyers working amongst other things on major international projects. In 1993 she was appointed Senior Legal Adviser and Company Secretary of the Shell Transport and Trading Company.

Nishma Patel, 30, London - Sales Director, Teletext

Having joined Teletext as Sales Support Executive in 1994, Nishma initially impressed with her drive and abilities far beyond her appointed position. Very quickly Nishma established herself as a key member of the sales team and began a meteoric rise to success progressing quickly through three promotions in one year to the position of Group Head for Holidays Advertising. In 2001, at the age of 27, Nishma was appointed as Sales Director at Teletext, adding responsibility for not only all holiday advertising but also the financial and sports sectors. Within the time period of Nishma's employment at Teletext, its turnover has increased by over 800%. With huge success in the financial and sports sectors coupled with the resounding success of Teletext Holidays, Nishma has excelled in formulating strategies and deals, developing the brand into the recognised one it is today. In 2002, Nishma was responsible for brokering the largest deal ever signed between a tour operator and a media owner in UK history. This year Nishma was identified as one of the top 30 women in travel by the Travel and Trade Gazette and was the only woman to appear on the list.

Dr Rashna Writer, Chesham, Bucks
Head of Global Risk, Merchant International Group

Dr Rashan Writer is Head of Global Risk at the Merchant International Group Limited (MIG), a leading in-country risk and security organisation.

The Global Risk Department is made up of experts in the field of politics, economics and military affairs and their brief is to cover, on behalf of clients, country or regional risk, undertake bespoke analytical work and monitor and grade countries in order to advise clients on the prevailing political or business climate. As well as having several books published, Dr Rashan Writer is a regular contributor of articles to publications such as Trade & Forfeiting Review, International Investment and International Risk Management. Dr Rasha Writer was educated in Calcutta before undertaking her Ph.D. in International Relations at the London School of Economics.


For a woman who has taken the risk and has successfully set up and is running her own business.

Annette D'Abreo, Bournemouth- Ceuta Healthcare

Annette established Ceuta nine years ago, and the company is now the UK's leading outsourced sales and marketing company for health and beauty products. The founding premise of Ceuta was to establish an ethical company that had a responsible approach to its people and the pharmaceutical industry. Ceuta has taken social responsibility of its people very seriously and consequently the company encourages individuals to undergo vocational and skills training with at least 50% of Ceuta employees having undergone company-sponsored training. Ceuta values their people and this commitment was recognised with the award for Investors In People in 2003. Ceuta is also involved with the wider community with sponsorship of a local boys school football and cricket team, via work experience schemes with local schools and through encouraging charity fund-raising events.

Ruby Hammer, 42, London - Ruby & Millie cosmetics

Ruby Hammer is one half (with Millie Kendal) of the beauty brand Ruby & Millie, the cosmetic brand with personality. The company has been hailed as the most innovative brand to be launched into the international beauty industry in decades. The concept of Ruby & Millie is universal and illustrates that creating perfect beauty need not be a tedious and complex task nor only available to the rich and famous. After three years of research and development the first Ruby & Millie site was opened in August 1998 in Harvey Nichols Leeds, and London. The demand for Ruby & Millie cosmetics means the company faces rapid expansion both nationally and internationally. In January 2004 Ruby starred in an educational documentary detailing her career in the beauty industry and has appeared in many magazines as a recognised, respected voice of the industry. Ruby & Millie have also combined their expertise to create a book called Face Up that provides everything you need to know about make-up in a light, personal and irreverent style, setting itself apart from other beauty publications.

Karuna Stood, 43, Biggin Hill, Kent - Stationery Direct Ltd

Karuna Stood came from a traditional Indian family in Kanpur and migrated to England after marrying. After having two children and working her way up First Employment and Churchill Direct Karuna established Stationary Direct in 1998 with a former colleague. Within three months Karuna faced running the business solo as her partnership dissolved due to her partners finical situation. The business began with one telesales girl and an administrator and grew from strength to strength after winning the T.Mobile account in 1998. The competitive pricing of the company, the unique customer service and interest in the smallest detail ensures the customer is left hassle free and content. The short term plans for the business are to move to larger freehold premises, which will mean more storage space and ultimately lower prices for the customers.

Shobha Tailor, Luton - Shobha's Catering Ltd

Shobha Tailor born in Kampala, Uganda moved to England at the age of 17 and marriage followed a couple of years later. Shobha gave birth to two children and sadly her marriage ended in divorce. It was at this point as a divorced single mother that Shobha decided to use her flair for cooking to supplement her income now she was paying a mortgage, household bills and for the upkeep of her children. It began with the making of samosas that were sold in a local delicatessen, they were an instant success and her reputation grew in the community. Seeking new challenges Shobha went into business with a relative and purchased a restaurant, unfortunately the venture was not successful and Shobha started producing food from home again. Shobha soon began to cater for small parties and as her reputation grew the business began to expand. After five years Shobha was approached by a local company to set up a partnership - now known as Shobha's Catering Limited. Shobha is now a leading name in Asian cuisine with full catering services for parties of up to 4,000 people. A frozen food line has been developed and now sells in most major UK supermarkets.

Shaheen Unis, Edinburgh - Mrs Unis' Spicy Foods

Shaheen came to Britain as a young bride in 1967 and is responsible for tempting and educating the Scottish food palate through creating, sustaining and growing Edinburgh's only family empire, which manufactures and supplies handmade speciality Indian products all over Scotland through the convenience store, wholesale and food service sector. Shaheen and her husband opened their first restaurant in 1980 and by 1984 had established Sonia's Asian Delicacies that provided to the retail, wholesale and catering markets. In 1999 the company, renamed Mrs Unis Spicy Foods, opened and was Edinburgh's first purpose built factory of authentic Asian food. The company provides employment for around 25 people - mainly first generation Asian women. Working with the Queen Margaret University College Mrs Unis Foods together with students of the college produced the ultimate fusion of food for Burns night - the Vegetarian Haggis Samosa. Shaheen has been involved over the years with a vast amount of community work, establishing Milan, an organisation that supports 300 ethnic elderly in the community and Edinburgh's Mela, the annual festival that celebrates Edinburgh's multicultural citizens. Her extensive community work and also appearances on television with celebrity chefs such as Clarissa Dickinson, and her involvement with raising awareness of the ethnic community in Edinburgh led her to winning the Avon in Praise of Women in 2000.


Unique individuals working in the areas of broadcast, print or electronic media.

Anita Bhalla, Birmingham
Head of Political & Community Affairs for the BBC English Regions

Anita is currently the Head of Political & Community Affairs for the BBC English Regions, which is one of the BBC's largest Directorates. Anita's role is quite unique in combining the power and glamour of broadcasting and the socio-political guidance and benefits of the 'Community'. Anita spent her early life in Nairobi, Kenya and moved to the UK at an early age. To Anita life is about social justice and empowerment to women and in the 1970s her work in the Midlands became legendary. Anita began to use the media to progress her work of equality and became a presenter on a local radio programme for the Asian Community. From this Anita went on to present Channel 4's Eastern Eye, which revolutionised British ethnic broadcasting. This programme opened doors for women and ethnic minorities in the then closed shop of broadcasting and Anita was one of a handful of women of ethnic minority who broke into the BBC to take up full time employment. Her role was to develop the Radio Asian Network in the West Midlands. Anita's next move was into Television News where she became a Community Affairs and Education Correspondent. In this position Anita won several awards including the CRE's Race in the Media Award, the National Television News Award and in 2000 the Impact Magazines Windrush Award as the Broadcaster of the Year. Now in the role of Head of Political & Community Affairs Anita has combined her social reform experience and media skills to become a pioneer in the area of placing ethnic minority rights into mainstream and fighting for equality of male and female colleagues. Anita is an active member of her community and is involved with many organisations and groups; she is Chair of the Midlands Art Council Centre and a Governor of the University of Central England.

Robina Dam, London
Editor of Shoo Magazine

Robina graduated from university with a Classics degree and entered journalism with an internship at a French glossy magazine in Paris. From there Robina went on to be a trainee reporter for the daily Asian newspaper, The Asian Age. Moving to the trade press Robina worked on Tandoori magazine, a monthly title for the 10,000 Indian restaurants across the country, and went on to become its Editor. The knowledge that Robina gained from working on this trade publication led her to become a restaurant critic for The Sunday Times Magazine's New London supplement and also for Marie Claire, which she did for a number of years before Jamie Oliver. Robina freelanced for the Evening Standard, The Times and India Today before joining The Sunday Times Magazine as a Junior Writer. In 2000 Robina edited the Sunday Times New London Monthly supplement and found this an excellent opportunity to manage a team, to redesign the supplement and introduce new ideas. Leaving the Sunday Times Robina moved to the Daily Mail where she worked full time for two years as a writer on Femail. Last year Robina became a freelance features editor of Shoo, a glossy quarterly magazine and in December became the Editor. Working on redesign and brining on board leading writers and award-winning photographers Shoo despite being a newcomer to the industry is now distributed in the UK, US and Europe.

Shiulie Ghosh, 36, Middlesex
News Correspondent and newscaster, ITV News

Shiulie was born in Leeds and moved to India for five years before settling with her family in the Northeast of England. After completing her GCSE's and 'A' Levels Shiulie went on to gain a BA (Hons) Law degree at the University of Kent. Shiulie has had an impressive 15-year career in the media and begun this career as a reporter and presenter on BBC East Midlands Today. After two years in this role Shiulie moved to BBC CountryFile as a reporter and in 1995 was appointed as senior reporter and presenter for BBC Newsroom South East. In 1998 Shiulie moved to a national newsroom as senior reporter for ITV News and in 2000 became home affairs editor and newscaster for ITV News. Shiulie is currently a senior news correspondent for ITV News and has covered many conflicts, scandals, prominent court cases and in the Kosovo war was the first TV reporter to gain access to the RAF air-refuelling manoeuvres. Shiulie was appointed Patron of the International Care & Relief charity and was awarded an Honorary Degree from the University of Teeside.

Zaiba Malik, 35, London
Current Affairs Reporter, Channel Four

Zaiba was born in Leeds in 1969 and was bought up in Bradford by her Pakistani parents. At Nottingham University Zaiba studied Law and Politics but decided to pursue a career in journalism. After a short time working in newspapers she made her move into television and into the area of investigative journalism where she has worked on a number of groundbreaking documentaries including: 'Unreported World - A Quick Fix' an untold story of the deaths of over 2500 people in Thailand during a 'war against drugs' campaign and 'Sleepers - Undercover with the Racists' where Zaiba took an undercover role of a shopkeeper for three months to highlight the problems of racism many Asians face on a daily basis. Zaiba has won several awards including winner of the 'Women in Film and Television/Talkback Award for New Talent' in 2002, and has been short listed for Yorkshire Women of Achievement Award, Royal Television Society 'Home Current Affairs Award' and for 'Best Factual Entertainment Programme Award' for 'House of Horrors'.

Sanjida O'Connell, 33, London
Novelist, Non-fiction Book Writer, Science Journalist, Television Documentary Producer/Director

Sanjida was born in 1970 in Pakistan of Bangladesh/Irish parents and moved to Northern Ireland where she lived until she was eight years old. After gaining a first in Zoology with Philosophy at Bristol Sanjida went on to graduate from Liverpool University with a PhD in Psychology. At the age of 21 alongside her supervisor Sanjida began writing science articles for the Independent on Sunday and the Guardian. In 1996 Sanjida's first novel 'Theory of the Mind' was published and won the Betty Trask for Romantic Fiction, her second novel 'Angel Bird' was runner up for an Asian Literature Award. Sanjida regularly writes for The Times, The Guardian, The Independent and for magazines such as BBC Wildlife magazine, Focus and New Scientist. At the age of 22 Sanjida became an Assistant Producer on BBC1's Tomorrow World Show and have since then become a producer/director and made nine documentaries for the BBC, Discovery, The Learning Channel, and National Geographic. Sanjida is also a Trustee of the Dana Centre, the Science Museum's new café/bar which is used as an events space to publicise science.


For women who have trained and qualified in their chosen professional practice and have become a leading practitioner - setting an example to other women and having their contribution acknowledged by their peers.

Yasmin Diamon, 35, London
Head of Corporate Communications, Department of Education & Skills (DfES)

Yasmin is a first generation born Pakistani woman who fought hard against traditional stereotyping to achieve success in her professional and personal life. Discouraged from furthering her career past 'A' Levels she convinced her family that she would attend university, and gained an honours degree. Her career spans a wide range of disciplines and experiences and began in The National Museum of Photography, Film and Television before changing sectors to the health service. Yasmin's current position is as the Head of Corporate Communications of the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) as well as being a Departmental Ambassador. In this position for three years Yasmin has devised, led and managed a groundbreaking strategy for integrating internal and external communications that has provided first class service to both staff and the general public. As a passionate advocate for customer focused communications Yasmin masterminded the Staying Ahead campaign to inspire, involve and inform staff about the strategic ambitions of the DfES. This campaign won the prestigious Communicators in Business Strategy Award 2003.

Doctor Yasmin J Drabu, London
Medical Executive Director, North Middlesex University Hospital Trust

Yasmin came to England in 1959 at the age of nine, and ten years later gained entrance to the Manchester University Medical School - one of only three Asian girls in a group of 160 students. In 1973 Yasmin qualified as a Doctor and chose to pursue a career in Pathology. Dr Yasmin Drabu began her career at the Microbiology Department, North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust as a Consultant Microbiologist in 1982 and progressed rapidly to become lead for Infection Control, a post she is still involved with. Yasmin now holds the prestigious role of Medical Executive Director and is responsible for all matters concerning medical staff, and all clinical governance issues. Her overall contribution to the Health Service was recognised by being awarded a B Merit award by the National Distinction Award Scheme - an award that is held by less than 3% of the medical consultant body. The award recognised her work in initiatives in correct disposal of clinical waste saving the hospital £12,000 per year, her work in infection control and technological development.

Professor Shadia Habbal, Aberystwyth
Professor of Solar-Terrestrial Physics, University of Wales

During the last quarter of a century Professor Shadia Habbal has become one of the major international figures in the study of Solar Physics. In 1970 Shadia gained a B. Sc Physics and Mathematics at the University of Damascus, in 1973 she went on to achieve M.Sc Physics at the American University of Beirut, in 1977 from the University of Cincinnati she achieved Ph.D. Physics and finally in 1978 became a Postdoctoral Fellow of NCAR, Boulder, USA. For 13 years Shadia worked as a Research Physicist at the prestigious Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and between 1995-2000 she held a Lectureship at Harvard University. Whilst at Harvard she won several awards for outstanding service and support, including the "Adventurous Women Lecture Series Award." In 2000 Shadia moved to Aberystwyth to become Professor of Solar Terrestrial Physics at the University of Wales. Her research work has included the exploration of the manifestations of heating the sun's inner corona and the study of the physical process that shape the solar wind blowing across interplanetary space. Shadia is a scientific leader in a field where few women have come to the fore.

Doctor Kamila Hawthorne, 42, Cardiff
Clinical Lecturer, Department of General Practice, University of Wales

Kamila has been involved in pioneering work in ethnic minority health issues, in particular access to health services, provision of culturally appropriate information to patients and Diabetes. Her career spans an impressive 20 years and began at Oxford University Medical School where she won scholarships, fellowships and prizes. In 1984 Kamila graduated becoming a member of the Royal College of Physicians. Whilst working at the Manchester Diabetes Centre Kamila won the Tawe Prize for best research presentation on her research of "Overcoming Cross-cultural Differences in Diabetes Management." During her time at the Manchester Diabetes Centre she established an outpatient clinic for Asian people with Diabetes, and raised the profile of health issues for ethnic minorities within the centre. In 1995 Kamila moved to Cardiff as a Principal in General Practice and became a Trainer in General Practice. Her work on ethnic minority health issues continues in Cardiff with providing the Bangladeshi and Pakistani community with systematic and comprehensive health education and advocacy. For this work she won the National Takeda Diabetes Prize in November 2002.

Moni Mannings, 41, London
Head of Corporate & Senior Partner, Olswang law firm

Moni has an impressive 18-year law career history that began when she graduated from Southampton University with LLB (Hons) and within four years had attended Law School, been called to the Bar, and admitted as a solicitor. Moni began her career as a solicitor in the banking department at Clifford Chance, the world's largest law firm and enjoyed nine years in this role and also as a valid member of the recruitment committee. The next step in her career was moving to Simmons & Simmons - a top 20 London based international law firm - to take the post of Banking Partner and member of the Graduate Recruitment Committee. Moni was hired for this role to strengthen the existing banking team. In 1997 she moved to Dewey Ballantine LLP, a top 20 US law firm, to become Head of Banking (London) and Head of Recruitment (London). In this role she was the first English and Asian partner hired by the company and after three years in this position had developed the London office from three lawyers to a 40 plus strong team. Moni is now a Partner at Olswang, a full service London based law firm. Her responsibilities include Head of Banking, Head of Corporate and a member of the management board. Her interest in helping women into positions of independence and strength has led her to work with the charity Dress for Success.

Professor Rasmita Rava, 44, Liverpool
Professor, Department of Chemistry and Director, Surface Science Research Centre, University of Liverpool

Rasmita is a world class Surface Scientist and Physical Chemist. Her ground breaking research on organic surfaces structures has opened many new avenues for scientific endeavour and commercial exploitation. Rasmita is the first ever female professor to be appointed to the Department of Chemistry at the University of Liverpool, and is also the first female Director of the prestigious Surface Science Research Centre. Her scientific work has implications over many aspects of science and therefore Rasmita has become an international leader in her field, a strong communicator of science and is a guest lecturer at numerous international conferences. In 2003 Rasmita was nominated the 2003 Mott Lecturer by the Condensed Matter and Materials Physics (CMMP) division, awarded the 2002 Schuit Lecturer in Catalysis, Netherlands, and awarded the 2002 E-synergy/National Endowment for Science, Technology and Arts (NESTA) Innovation Prize.


For women who have achieved success within senior executive and non-executive roles in the civil service, quangos, universities and national institutions.

Anita Bharucha, 31, Belfast
Head of the Rights and International Relations Division of the Northern Ireland Office (NIO)

At 31 years old, Anita is by far the youngest member of the Senior Civil Service team of the Northern Ireland Office (NIO). She joined the Civil Service as a Fast Stream graduate entrant in 1993 and has earned very rapid promotion as a result of her outstanding ability and potential. When she was promoted to the Senior Civil Service in 2000, she was the youngest person to reach that level in the history of the NIO and one of the youngest ever across the civil service as a whole. Anita heads the Rights and International Relations Division of the NIO in London. In this post she has been undertaking work intimately connected with the political process in Northern Ireland including the promotion of human rights and equality, sponsoring and supporting the Electoral Office in Northern Ireland, advising on how to address the legacy of the past and articulating the Government's policies on Northern Ireland to a range of international audiences. Anita has made an impressive and high quality contribution on these politically sensitive issues and is respected as a source of advice by Ministers, colleagues in the NIO and partners from other organisations.

Naaz Coker, 55, Kent
Chair of the British Refugee Council and the St George's Healthcare NHS Trust

Naaz Coker's career spans 30 years in the public and voluntary sectors. She spent 20 years in the NHS where her roles ranged from Pharmaceutical and Clinical Director to General Manager in acute NHS Trusts in London followed by ten years at the King's Fund a large charitable foundation working in the field of health and social care, where she was the Director of the Race and Diversity programme. She has written widely on racism and ethnic health inequalities in the NHS and the plight of refugees and asylum seekers in the West. Naaz has been the Chair of the British Refugee Council since November 1998. The Refugee Council is the largest charitable organisation in the UK providing services and promoting the rights of asylum seekers and refugees in the UK and abroad. In November 2003 the NHS Appointments Commission appointed her Chair of St George's Healthcare NHS Trust. The Trust manages St George's Hospital in Tooting as well as Bolingbroke Hospital. She has also held many other voluntary appointments including Chair of Aga Khan Health Board UK, Member of Management Committee of St Cecilia's Leonard Cheshire Home in Bromley Kent, Member of Standing Pharmaceutical Advisory Committee to the Secretary of State for Health. She is currently a trustee of the Media Trust and the Community Channel and the Ashoka UK Trust.

Sharmila Gandhi, Bradford
Chief Executive, Bradford Vision

Sharmila Gandhi is Chief Executive of Bradford Vision, a partnership of several key public and private bodies, including Bradford Council, Bradford Chamber of Commerce and West Yorkshire Police. The core objective of Bradford Vision is to deliver to local people the District's 2020 Vision - a blueprint for change, created as a result of widespread public consultation. During the 18 months in which Sharmila has directed Bradford Vision, she has earned the admiration and respect of people within the public and private sectors, as well as the community and voluntary sector. Sharmila is already able to point to encouraging indicators that improvement is now being made by Bradford Vision's partners in the health and life expectancy of local people, in sustaining employment and creating new jobs, reducing volume crime, disrupting the supply of Class A drugs and improving the district's environment and image. In addition, the work of Bradford Vision's Neighbourhood Renewal team is undoubtedly improving the day-to-day quality of life experienced by people living in some of the district's most disadvantaged communities.

Mandana Hendessi, Oxfordshire
Commissioner, Women's National Commission

Iranian born, Mandana is a social policy consultant, a tutor and a trained counsellor and has spent over twenty years working on equality, health and housing issues. Within the Women's National Commission, Mandana is a lead Commissioner on Muslim women's issues. Until May 2003, Mandana worked for the YWCA as policy and campaigns director, where she led on projects, which have successfully raised the profile of young women's issues on the social and political agenda, challenging their invisibility. In 2003, she was an expert member in the Equality Forum New Opportunities and a consultant for the Oxfam UK Poverty Programme. Mandana has been an activist for gender equality and social justice since 1979 when she as part of a black feminist group founded Southall Black Sisters, following the anti-racist uprising in Southall, London. Mandana has also been active in movements against gender violence and violation of human rights experienced by women in countries governed by Sharia laws. In Britain, she has been involved in campaigns against violence in the home, rape and sexual assaults perpetrated against women and children. Between 1994 and 2000, Mandana worked as a management consultant advising and assisting charities and the public sector on best practice in providing equitable services for socially excluded groups, notably black and minority ethnic women. Mandana has been working as a senior advisor to the coalition provisional authority in Iraq since September 2003, advising them on the role of women in political governance and the issues of violence against women.

Shahwar Sadeque, Surrey
Trustee of the Immigration Advisory Service and The Windsor Leadership Trust

Shahwar is an education and ICT consultant and is a director of two companies. She has a strong public service ethos and has been a member of a number of national public bodies since 1989, believing that if women are not present on them then important decisions will be made which affect everyone but with input from only half of society. She has been a Special Representative of the Secretary of State for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office since 1998 and a member of the Royal College of Physicians' Committee on Ethical Issues in Medicine. Over the years she has contributing her expertise in education, science technology and her personal experience of being an Asian woman in the quest to attract more women into public appointment, latterly working with the DTI's Women and Equality Unit.

Professor Pooran Wynarczyk, Newcastle
Director, Small Enterprise Research Unit (SERU), Newcastle University

Since 1983, Pooran has been a principal investigator and award holder of several major Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), EU and consultancy funded projects in the area of the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector, including a prestigious ESRC Senior Research Fellowship. In 1995, Pooran established, with the support of the Economic & Social Research Council, the Small Enterprise Research Unit (SERU) at the Newcastle University's Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies (CURDS). Over the past 15 years, her research and other activities at Newcastle University have generated in excess of £3 million. With over 20 years of research experience and knowledge of the SME sector, her expertise also includes the development of databases, innovative computerised econometrics and statistical techniques to undertake original and novel empirical research amongst SME's. Her published work has generated a great deal of interest amongst policy makers, academics, media and practitioners at local, national and international level.


For special women involved in social and humanitarian work, whether they are individuals working for non-profit organisations or the corporate world contributing to the voluntary sector.

Dr Bayan Alaraji, Surrey
Human rights campaigner and refugee doctor

Dr Bayan Alaraji is a highly qualified medical doctor. Born in Iraq and a graduate of Baghdad University, she left the country along with her husband and children fearing persecution by the regime. Since arriving in the UK she has devoted her life to helping the Iraqi people and started a campaign for human rights in Iraq. Following the second Gulf War, Dr Bayan Alaraji has committed herself to assisting the Iraqi refugees on the Iran-Iraq borders as well as refugees in Afghanistan and Palestine. She travels to the Iraqi refugee camps in the Islamic Republic of Iran twice a year and spends over a month with the refugees - treating them with medical care, listening to them and distributing humanitarian aid such as food, medicine and clothes. While in the UK, she is in constant contact with various countries and institutions regarding the plight of the Iraqi refugees in the camps. Dr Bayan has played an extremely active role in conferences relating to human rights throughout the world. She addressed a conference about torture in Cape Town, South Africa and attended the NGO Forum on Women Conference in Beijing. Dr Bayan now chairs a charity called World Wide Welfare. She is also the Vice-President of Geneva based Interfaith International and has recently been chosen to act as the general secretary for an organisation in France that rehabilitates torture victims.

Harminder Batra, Middlesex
Self Help Group Co-ordinator

Since arriving in the UK from Kenya in 1974, Harminder Batra has dedicated her time to the development and running of self-help groups for women of all faiths and ages in the Hounslow area. Harminder has played a leading role in local organisations such as the Hounslow Asian Women's Community Centre, Milan Women's Group and the Cranford Good Neighbours. Many individuals in Hounslow are also testimony to the support provided by Harminder; be it practical help in getting benefits sorted out to emotional support during a bereavement. Harminder recently set up the 'Goldy Goldy Women's Group' in Heston - the aim of the group being to raise awareness about health issues amongst Asian women over the age of 50 years. Weekly sessions at Heston Community Centre include visits from guest speakers, demonstrations of healthy foods and keep fit. In June 2003, Harminder fulfilled her dream of writing and producing a play that conveys a social message when she directed her first play as part of the 'Older People's Festival' in Hounslow. She was aware of the untapped talent in the local community therefore recruited and trained local people to act in the play. The play was a huge success and Harminder was approached by the London Borough of Hounslow to write and produce another play to be staged in June 2004.

Farzana Kauser, Lancashire
Domestic violence campaigner

Farzana has a deep held interest in equality and basic human rights but her passion is to eliminate domestic violence, particularly in the Asian community.

Farzana began her career in the Asian fabric trade where her clients were predominantly Asian women and young girls. Her shop was a place of meeting, sharing problems and for many it was a place to go to escape from the turmoil at home. This was where Farzana had her first grass roots level experience of being a confident to victims of domestic violence. Farzana went on to become a PR & Marketing Manager for the regional ethnic newspaper, Asian Leader, but the moral duty she felt to help victims of domestic violence inspired her to become a volunteer, giving emotional support to victims of violence in her community. In 2002, the BBC selected Farzana's project on domestic violence for a national pilot programme where she received a year's training in radio production in order to successfully make her project into a radio programme. In 2003, she became a Domestic Violence Case Officer in Preston, Lancashire, working in the voluntary sector, liaising with the Police and other agencies. In February 2004, Farzana completed her programme on domestic violence amongst Asian women and received an award from the Millennium Commission.

Veena Loomba, Northwood
Educational Charity Trustee

Veena Loomba is a Founding Trustee of the Shrimati Pushpa Wati Loomba Memorial Trust, which educates children of poor widows in India. The Loomba Trust was set up in 1997 by Mrs Loomba and her husband, Mr Raj Loomba, the inspiration for which came from Raj's late mother, Shrimati Pushpa Wati Loomba, who became a widow at the age of 37 and succeeded in educating her seven children single-handled - a daunting task for a window in India. To date, the Trust has raised over £600,000 and is educating 1100 children of poor widows in India. Each child is guaranteed to receive a scholarship for a continuous period of five years. The Trust's ultimate aim is to educate 100 children in all 28 States and 7 Union Territories nationwide in the country. The Trust has received support from British and Indian Governments, and enjoys the patronage of individuals such as Cherie Booth QC, The Rt. Hon. Baroness Betty Boothroyd PC and Joanna Lumley OBE. The overall support has come from Sir Richard Branson, who donated over £100,000 through "Change for Children", a charity appeal onboard Virgin Atlantic Airways flights worldwide. Mrs Loomba has been instrumental in supporting the work of the Loomba Trust. She has taken part in many high profile fund raising events, attended several launches in India and has visited children in India who are benefiting from the Trust. Her commitment to the work of the Trust is total and unquestionable.

Gurmit Kaur, Nottingham
Sergeant, Nottinghamshire Police

Gurmit Kaur was the first woman of Asian heritage to be promoted to the rank of Sergeant in the Nottinghamshire Police. Gurmit joined the police service at the age of 20 in 1987. In 1999, Gurmit's ability to engage and educate young people was recognised when she was selected as a Youth Issues Officer, responsible for the delivery of the RESPECT programme in Secondary Schools - helping young people develop respect for themselves, others and property. Gurmit has also presented a programme called DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), an anti drug and prevention programme. She performed uniform operational duties before progressing to the Child Abuse Unit for six years. In February 2003, Gurmit was promoted to Sergeant. She is an active member of the Nottinghamshire Black Police Association, where she deals with sensitive and emotive issues in a pragmatic, professional and positive manner. She has supported the positive action evenings arranged by Nottinghamshire Police in order to encourage ethnic minorities and women to join the service. A positive role model, her image has even been used in several media campaigns. Gurmit is a qualified part time youth worker and has organised a number of residential courses aimed at raising the self-esteem and insight of young people including international trips to Holland and a youth exchange to India. She is a New Deal for Communities mentor supporting young people into work and also works at the Ekta after school club at the Indian community centre, helping young people in literacy and numeracy. Gurmit is an instructor at the North Nottinghamshire Youth Justice Centre where she works with young offenders. Her work involves challenging their behaviour, letting them see the consequences of crime and building their confidence in order to change.


Any woman under 30 who has done something incredible, inspirational or is simply the best at what she does.

Divya Gupta, 28, Buckinghamshire
Accenture Lead for Conversion Reconciliation at Pfizer

Divya Gupta has been working for Accenture since October 2000. Her role there involves working on financial systems and services for a range of clients such as Pfizer, Halifax Bank of Scotland, Sun MicroSystems, Excel Logistics and DHL. Divya is responsible for managing the change process that is inevitable when new systems and processes are introduced and to ensure 'buy-in' of the client to move to the new procedures and methodologies implemented. Divya received a BSc in Computing In Business from Brunel University, Middlesex.

Mishal Husain, 30, London
News Presenter, BBC World

Mishal Husain is a highly accomplished broadcaster and as a key presenter on BBC World since Oct 2000, she has become one of the most familiar faces in news broadcasting around the globe. Mishal anchors the 6 and 7 pm evening news, seen by a worldwide audience of over 256 million and across the United States through cable and satellite on BBC America and public television. Mishal is also a Washington correspondent for BBC News. She has played an integral role in establishing BBC World as an authoritative source of television news in USA. Mishal studied law at Cambridge University, graduating in 1995, and then completed a Master's in Law at the European University Institute in Florence. Her first job was at Bloomberg Television in London, where she spent two years and had the opportunity of on-camera work for the first time. She joined the BBC in 1988 as a producer at BBC World and then moved to the BBC's specialist Economics and Business Unit as a reporter. She first tried her hand at anchoring in May 2000, including a stint in Singapore as the first anchor of the new 'Asia Business Report' on BBC World. She later returned to London to co-anchor BBC World's flagship 'World Business Report'. Mishal moved to the main news on BBC World in November 2001. Mishal is an incredibly able and versatile broadcaster who combines her personal qualities of warmth and humanity with the highest professional standards.

Taran Kaur (aka Hardkaur), 24, Birmingham/London

The UK's first Asian female music artist, Taran is one of the most promising young MC's in the UK today - she is already being hailed the UK's female version of Busta Rhythms. A born performer, (Taran would perform to crowds of thousands in India at the age of six) she moved to Birmingham from Uttar Pradesh, India in 1991, when she was 11 years old. Inner-city life proved a musical inspiration for her and she found her forte MC'ing. In 1996, Taran released her first single 'Vodoo Hill'. Two years later she decided to move to London after she received a call asking her to perform for "Asian Equation", a project of Asian artists in areas such as Singing, Dj'ing, Dancing and MC'ing. Taran studied a course of vocal technique at the The London Music School and it was while she was in London that she got recognition in the Asian underground scene. Taran has performed throughout the U.K, from Glastonbury Festival to Brixton Academy supporting amongst others N*E*R*D and De La Soul. Taran is currently writing her debut Album alongside Phantom (Timberland Crew U.S), T.J Rehmi (Realworld), Jag-Deep, Saqib (Outlandish, Denmark) Richard "Biff" Stannard, to name but a few. Blending impassioned words about her beliefs with hip-hop has provided the music scene with a fresh and feisty face, Hardkaur challenges any male MC to the microphone!

Farah Naz, 27, London
MD of EX1 Cosmetics

Farah Naz launched her own company, EX1 cosmetics in 2003. Her vision was to develop a range of cosmetics for women of far eastern origin with Asian or exotic skin tones. Farah realised the need for EX1 in the beauty and cosmetics market after years of trying to mix and match other branded products to create the right colour match for her own skin. Farah is an Associate of the Royal College of Science in London and has a degree in Biochemistry. Farah has effectively drawn on all of her own skills of management and biochemistry and complimented them with the expertise of external consultants. As a British Asian woman, Farah knows her market and her product inside out and is relishing the fact that she can combine ambition and commercial success with bringing about a cosmetic solution for her own community and others.

Neelam Verjee, 24, London
Business Reporter, The Times

Neelam graduated from the London School of Economics in 2001 with a BSc in Social Policy and Government. After completing her studies she was awarded a University of London Convocation Award in order to research the role and importance of mountains on the mythology of the Central Asian people and set off on her travels with the aim of following Marco Polo's route across Asia. Neelam spent time in Syria, Iran and Pakistan but her journey was cut short when she was caught up in Pakistan on September 11th, 2001. She was consequently evacuated out of the country and never managed to reach Tajikistan or Uzbekistan. On her return, she presented to the committee on her travels up until Pakistan. Neelam went on to work for BBC World Service in African Productions, co-producing and packaging radio programmes, most specifically Postmark Africa. In 2002 she had an internship with CNN International and worked for Transparency International, conducting research on the link between journalism and corruption. Neelam began working at The Times in August 2002 as a staff reporter for the Business News section. She edits the daily full-page column entitled Need to Know: The Global Business Briefing. Neelam also contributes to leading overseas newspaper, The Cairo Times.

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