November 2020

Flying high

M.J. Akbar recalls the honourable life of Major Jaswant Singh Jasol, a former Indian Army officer and one of India’s longest serving parliamentarians, who has died at the age of 82

This year’s Asian Women of Achievement Awards saw a host of young women from Asian backgrounds recognised for their contributions to British society across a range of fields, including science, arts & culture, business, media, social & humanitarian, and sport.

As ever, all the nominations were of an extremely high standard. But they had to be whittled down to shortlists of five in each of the twelve main categories, which were then reviewed by the shortlist committee. Once shortlisted, candidates were invited to a judging day for a short interview with their category judge.

In the Social & Humanitarian category, shortlisted candidates included Nishy Lall, Head of Young People at Sky, who has helped hundreds of youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds find fulfilling work in the media industry; Rola El Chami of Oxford University’s  Said Business School, who has worked to empower women in conflict; Dr Kiran Sanghera, an organ donation activist whose work raises awareness about the importance of organ donation within BAME communities; and Sabina Khan, a Parent Liaison Officer at Mulberry School for Girls, who works to provides opportunities for the most vulnerable in her deprived community.

Even amongst such impressive competition, final winner Nishy Lall stood out for judge Tamara Box, Managing Partner of Europe and the Middle East at Reed Smith LLP, as ‘having a deep vision and reach to make sustainable change’

The army may use its formidable powers to promote its favourite candidates to take on Suu Kyi

Nishy Lall

Winners in the other categories were: ballerina Erina Takahashi (Arts & Culture), the Bank of England’s Deputy Head of Global Trade Strategy Serena Kern-Libera (Business),  restaurateur Afia Sirkhot (Entrepreneurs); journalist Krupa Padhy (Media); Narita Bahra QC (Professions); DS Neata Simpson of the West Midlands Police (Public Service); Reed Smith Partner Nav Sahota (Real Estate, Infrastructure & Construction); biologist Dr Trupti Gaikwad (Science); Amna Rafiq from the Yorkshire Cricket Board (Sport); and Rahma Javed, Director of Engineering at Deliveroo (Technology & Digital). Kinjal Dave, a scientist at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, scooped the 2020 Young Achiever Award.

The Awards are now in their 20th year, having been founded by Pinky Lilani CBE DL in 1999 to celebrate multicultural Britain and the positive input of diverse cultures and talents to British society. They provide a platform for these talented and ambitious Asian women who are making valuable and important contributions to British life across a range of industries and sectors, as well as playing a key role in informing a new pro-diversity debate.

Over the past two decades, the AWAAs have had a powerful impact, leading to the creation of numerous initiatives and projects designed to help women and improve opportunities for the next generation. As well as being a night of recognition for achievement, the Awards ceremony – held virtually this year – provides a community and a programme of initiatives that offer the opportunity for candidates to meet like-minded women and build business contacts.


M.J. Akbar is a veteran Indian journalist, author and politician