• Thursday, July 18, 2024


Damehood for Jasvinder Sanghera as British Asians recognised by the King

Sanghera is the founded Karma Nirvana, a charity for south Asian survivors of domestic abuse, forced marriage and honour-based violence.

Jasvinder Sanghera (Photo by Jon Bond – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

By: Shajil Kumar

A host of leading figures from the British Asian community have been given awards in the King’s Birth Honours List announced on Friday (14).

Jasvinder Kaur Sanghera told Eastern Eye she was taken aback when she was awarded Damehood.

Sanghera is the founded Karma Nirvana, a charity for south Asian survivors of domestic abuse, forced marriage and honour-based violence.

“A damehood is one above CBE, and I just feel overwhelmed by it, and really excited,” she said.

Reflecting on her background, Sanghera said, “My dad came here in the 50s from India, settled in Britain to make a better life for us. I’m the only one in the family that went to university, didn’t read a book until I was 28 years old.”

Now, at 58, she does not take her independence for granted, acknowledging the fight it took to achieve it. “Nobody gave it to me. I had to fight for it,” she said.

Sanghera emphasised her gratitude for her father and her determination to fight for the basic rights and freedoms that many in Britain take for granted.

“I will keep on fighting for the very things that people in our society here in Britain do not have and that can be taken for granted,” she said.

She intends to continue fighting for independence and freedom, particularly for women and those from Asian backgrounds who still face inequality.

“You know that space of being a woman and still having to fight inequality. An Asian woman is still being looked at differently, and even now, with what’s going on in our society and the lack of understanding around, being my colour and being different and actually becoming more alienated, you know, that isn’t helping the conversation, and I want to be part of that conversation,” she said.

“I want to see some honesty about the fact that culture, traditional religion, is not an excuse for abuse. And I really want to have that conversation,” she added.

Sanghera spoke about her hard work and merit, noting that her accomplishments were not handed to her. “I work bloody hard. Nobody gave me anything,” she said.

“What it means is that no matter where you come from in your life, if you work hard, if you fundamentally believe in what you believe in, and you’re not afraid to raise your head above the parapet, and you’re not going to sell out, then you can do it,” she said.

Sanghera is committed to continuing her work, even if it means taking the more difficult route, to achieve positive outcomes not just for herself but for others as well.

“I will keep on doing that. I will not take the easy route. I’ll take the more difficult route, if it means I’ve done it personally and if it means I’ve achieved a positive outcome, not just for me, but for others,” she said.

The other prominent South Asians on the list who received a CBE are Monica Ali, Professor David Krishna Menon, Dipesh Jayantilal Shah and Asif Rangoonwala.

dipesh shah
Dipesh Jayantilal Shah

Shah, chair of National Highways, said he felt deeply overwhelmed on hearing about the honour and felt it was nice to be recognised for his services to the transport sector.

He said he has worked towards helping to transform the organisation into being more adaptable, more agile. He said the honour is also a “real tribute to the work done by colleagues” and he feels privileged to lead them.

Shah is also the first independent chair of the Oxford to Cambridge pan Regional Partnership.

“It is a collection of local inspired local leaders with the nine universities, bookended by Oxford and Cambridge, the local mayors and, of course, supported by central government. And I’ve been asked to see if we can facilitate bringing in the mountain of investment to stay step up the site, research, science, technology and innovation ecosystem that we have in this region.”

He has also chaired three infrastructure funds across Europe that also invest in energy transition, digital transformation, waste and transport.

Rangoonwala heads the Rangoonwala Foundation, that manages the charity which provides vocational training, medical centres, libraries and other educational and life-enhancing facilities for marginalised communities worldwide.

He is also a successful business entrepreneur with interests spanning the food, property and sport sectors.

BARING HER SOUL: Monica Ali (Photo Credit: Yolande De Vries)
Monica Ali (Photo Credit: Yolande De Vries)

Writer Monica Ali, who made her brilliant debut with the Booker Prize-shortlisted novel Brick Lane, was honoured for her services to literature.

Ali has delivered diverse books that have been translated into 26 languages.

Talking to the Eastern Eye on an earlier occasion, she had said she grew up poor and didn’t have money to buy books.

“I borrowed books from the library and was always escaping into novels. But I didn’t think people like me could write them and get them published. So, I look back with a sense of awe and a little pride.”

In 2022, she published her fifth novel, Love Marriage, which became an instant Sunday Times bestseller.

Professor David Krishna Menon, head of division of Anaesthesia at University of Cambridge, received the honour for services to neurocritical care.

He was the first director of the Neurosciences Critical Care Unit (NCCU) at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, where he established the first recognised training program for specialist neurocritical care in the UK.

Asif Rangoonwala (Photo: British Asian Trust)

Shalni Arora, founder Trustee, Belong and Founder, of Savannah Wisdom Charitable Foundation, has been awarded an OBE for services to charity and to philanthropy.

She told Eastern Eye she was ‘humbled’ and ‘delighted’ by the honour.

“I’ve been working in the not for profit sector, in the public and charity space, for 15 years,” she said.

“I’m honoured that the work that’s been recognised is the charity (Belong) that I founded after the Manchester arena bombing.”

Arora was an entrepreneur and set up a biotech business, which was venture capital backed. After she sold that business she decided to devote her life in the charity space.

She said Savannah wisdom was set up as a disruptive charity incubator.

Shalni Arora

“We look for great people, great projects, which we can fund. We give them core funding,” she said.

“I tend to take a position on the board or a position on the program steering group, and guide that small charity or person to become self sufficient sustainable, so that they’re able to grow their own organization.

“We give them seed funding, as you would do a small business, and then we help that charity put in place those business principles to make sure they become successful.”

A former soldier of British Army’s Gurkha regiment, Hari Budha Magar, who became the first double above-the-knee amputee to conquer Mount Everest in 2023, has been awarded and MBE. He lost both legs in a bomb blast in Afghanistan in 2010 and conquered Everest at the age of 43.

He served in the British Army for 15 years. After this tenure he rediscovered his confidence through an array of sports which included skydiving, kayaking, cycling and skiing before taking up mountain climbing.

SWN 1810 scaled
Corporal Hari Budha Magar at the GG2 Leadership & Diversity Awards

Magar was in Alaska preparing to climb Denali, the highest peak in North America, when Eastern Eye contacted him for his response to the Honours List.

“I feel absolutely honoured and delighted to receive MBE on His Majesty’s birthday. I never worked for honour and award but I am very pleased that my work making awareness of disability is recognised which encourages me to do more what I am doing right now.”

He believes the recognition will inspire many other British south Asian communities to climb their own mountains and conquer their dreams whatever that mountains or dreams they have.

Jaisukhlal Mehta, who was honoured with the Medallists of the Order of the British Empire, told Eastern Eye that it is a pleasure to see his work being recognised and celebrated. “It also allows me to shine a spotlight onto the type of work I have been doing with the Institute of Jainology encouraging our community to speak with a unified voice,” he said.

Mehta said he was fortunate to retire early and spend time in spiritual and charitable activities, working across a wide range of projects. “I hope that I can inspire others in similar situations that we may only be one person making small changes, but this has a knock-on effect having a positive impact on local communities,” he said.

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