Eastern Eye (UK)
Breaking barriers to reach the top
FROM SUCCESSFUL POLITICIANS TO COMMUNITY CHAMPIONS, HOW GG2 AWARD WINNERS MADE THEIR MARK
Rishi Sunak became the first British Asian to become prime minister of the UK in October 2022.
His parents came to the UK in the 1960s from east Africa, and like many immigrant families, Sunak’s GP father Yashvir and pharmacist mother Usha worked long hours to ensure a better future for their children.
Armed with degrees from Oxford and Stanford, Sunak started out as an investment banker. But he switched to politics and was elected to parliament in 2015 from Richmond, Yorkshire, one of the safest Conservative seats in the country.
During the Covid pandemic, Sunak won praise for his efforts in saving jobs as chancellor. In October 2022, he entered 10 Downing Street after the resignation of his predecessor Liz Truss.
Man of the Year: Vinai Venkatesham
The chief executive of Arsenal Football Club, Vinai Venkatesham is the Premier League’s youngest CEO and the only one from an ethnic minority background. A graduate from Oxford University, he started out as an accountant at Arthur Anderson. After working at the London Olympics, he joined Arsenal where he rose through the ranks.
Venkatesham has operational responsibility for the club, working closely with the owners and the board, for on and offpitch matters. Previously, he was head of global partnership and then the chief commercial officer at the club.
Before joining Arsenal, he was part of the successful commercial team at London 2012, which raised £2 billion of private finance to host the games.
Venkatesham supports British sport’s biggest events in his spare time, including sitting on the board of the World Athletics Championships in London in 2017. He is also currently on the board of the British Olympic Association.
Woman of the Year: Ayesha Vardag
Known as ‘Britain’s top divorce lawyer’, Ayesha Vardag brings commercial legal skills to divorce law. She specialises in high-net-worth divorces, often with an international or celebrity element.
A self-made entrepreneur, she is an advocate of equality and justice.
In 2010, Vardag represented German heiress Katrin Radmacher in the Radmacher v Granatino case. The groundbreaking 2010 Supreme Court ruling ensured pre-nup agreements had validity in Britain, with eight out of nine Supreme Court judges ruling in Vardag’s favour.
She built Vardags Solicitors into one of the most respected family law firms in the country, breaking barriers in a traditionally male-dominated profession. In 2017, Vardags was declared the fastest-growing law firm in Europe’s FT 1000 rankings.
Ram Solanki Beacon Award: Baroness Patricia Scotland
As the secretary general of the Commonwealth, Baroness Patricia Scotland has ensured each of the 56 member countries has an equal voice and standing.
During her tenure, she has transformed the organisation.
Born in Dominica in 1955, she moved to the UK with her family, growing up in east London. She became the first black woman to be appointed a Queen’s Counsel (QC) in 1991 and then the first black female to be appointed deputy high court judge, recorder and master of Middle Temple. She joined the House of Lords in 1997 as Baroness Scotland of Asthal and went on to serve as a minister in the Foreign Office, Home Office and Lord Chancellor’s Department.
She undertook a major reform of the criminal justice system, including the introduction of the Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act.
Scotland was appointed attorney general in 2007, the first woman to hold the post since it was created in 1315.
Blossom Award: Seeds for Growth
Gregory Cohn created the charity Seeds for Growth to help underprivileged communities, and it is developing new gardens in greater London. Its Greening Communities project supports tenants on social housing estates to create new community gardens and green spaces.
Launched in 2006 in London’s Tower Hamlets to initially work with the Bangladeshi community, Seeds for Growth identifies under-used land on social housing estates and engages local tenants to establish community gardens which help promote wellbeing and healthy lifestyles.
Across the UK, 150 Greening Communities franchise satellites will be launched in cities and large towns. The goal is to create 800 new community gardens annually, which will attract four million visitors a year.
Previously, Cohn developed the idea of establishing food co-ops to provide healthy fresh food for disadvantaged communities. In one London borough, 35,000 people are accessing fresh food from such food co-ops.
Outstanding Achievement in Law Award: Nasreem Karim
The founder director of Platinum Partnership Solicitors, Nasreen Karim became the first British Pakistani woman to set up a legal practice in Bradford when she launched the law firm in 2004.
Karim is known for leading on diversity and inclusion transformation in business and education in the region through her work as a lawyer and director of the West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce.
She is the founder and chairperson of the organisation’s first BAME Business Committee, which aims to encourage the active participation of BAME businesses in the city. She is also a board member of the Bradford Chamber and a member of the MBA international advisory board at the University of Bradford.
For more than 20 years, Karim helped put Asian businesses on the map when it comes to economic affairs in the west and north Yorkshire region. She is a champion of minority businesses and has also been pivotal in bringing communities together.
Outstanding Achievement in Medicine Award: Dr Senthil Nathan
Surgeon Senthil Nathan is a gold medallist from India, before he moved to the UK. After working in general surgery and obtaining an FRCS in Yorkshire, Nathan obtained a diploma in urology while working at Royal Free Hospital.
He is now an eminent urological surgeon working at both University College London Hospital and the Cleveland Clinic in central London.
His pioneering work in robotic surgery revolutionised surgical procedures, and he continues to develop this cutting-edge technology with the Chitra Sethia Centre for Robotics, funded by the philanthropist Nirmal Sethia. He has many firsts in surgical techniques in robotic surgery, especially in urology, and is a keen educator.
Nathan is a member of the British Association of Urological Surgeons and the Royal Society of Medicine. He is also an honorary advisor to the N Sethia Foundation and trustee of the Prostate Cancer Research Foundation.
Young Achiever Award: Isaan Khan The Daily Mail journalist Isaan Khan is known for his undercover investigations, having already broken several exclusives, and many of them have led to further scrutiny and calls for more probes.
As an investigative reporter, Khan went undercover to expose the security company at the centre of the security failures during the 2020 Euro football final at Wembley stadium. He also acted as a 111 call handler and showed there were serious deficiencies in the system, which were letting patients down.
In addition, Khan secured an interview with jailed fraud Allen Stamford in the US, securing the cooperation of the authorities on his own. He covered the general election for Trinity Mirror’s data unit, where his role was to fact-check and verify claims and sources. Khan has been trained in London to use platforms such as Trendolizer, Newswhip and Trendsmap.
Achievement through Adversity Award: Corporal Hari Budha Magar
Having grown up in a farming village in Nepal, Corporal Hari Budha Magar joined the British Army’s Gurkha regiment at the age of 19 and served in some of the harshest terrains in Afghanistan during his 15-year military career.
Magar, who lost his legs after stepping onto an IED in Afghanistan in 2010, became determined to challenge perceptions about disabled people. He rediscovered his confidence through an array of sports which included skydiving, kayaking, cycling and skiing, before taking up mountain climbing.
He has since scored several firsts, trekking to Everest Base Camp and scaling mountains in Nepal and Western Europe. He climbed to the top of Mont Blanc, Chulu Far East, Kilimanjaro and Mera Peak. Magar is the first double above-theknee amputee to ever summit a mountain taller than 6,000 metres.
Inspire Award: Dr Geeta Nargund
Professor Geeta Nargund is the founder of Create Fertility, and is also an activist and campaigner for women’s health issues. Her treatments are known for being cost-effective. In addition to running Create, she conducts research, writes papers and serves on the government body which regulates the industry.
Nargund is a senior consultant gynaecologist and lead consultant for reproductive medicine services at St George’s Hospital, London.
She has published more than 60 peerreviewed scientific papers, including abstracts, as well as several book chapters in the field of reproductive medicine.
Nargund is a pioneer in the field of natural and mild IVF and advanced ultrasound technology in reproductive medicine, and is an accredited trainer for infertility and gynaecological ultrasound special skills modules. She pioneered the use of follicular Doppler in assessing ‘egg quality’ in humans. She is also a regular speaker at Westminster seminars on health and social care in the UK.
Young Journalist of the Year: Elaine Chong
Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, Elaine Chong was selected by the BBC’s World Service for its ‘Future Voices’ programme, which took just six bilingual trainees out of an application pool of 3,000.
Chong produced a series for the BBC based on observing east Asian migrant culture in Britain and looking at beauty, sex and culture in these groups.
Last year, she was behind Britain’s New Hongkongers, a documentary that looked at recent arrivals to the UK from the former British colony and how much had changed since the introduction of China’s nationwide National Security Law. Her contributions to Rolling Stone magazine, Esquire and Vice had an immediate impact and led to the commissioning of a TV documentary series on BBC Three.
She is an alumna of the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Spirit in the Community Award: Harris Bokhari
Community champion Harris Bokhari has strived to help change people’s lives, and founded the Patchwork Foundation in 2010 to increase the representation of young people in the political system.
Bokhari was the first non-white trustee of the Natural History Museum in London, a world-leading science research centre and the most-visited natural history museum in Europe.
He is the first Muslim to be elected to the National Trust Council. As a member of the Honours Committee, Bokhari has been an advocate for senior honours for those from ethnic communities.
His work helps in reaching out to communities to bridge gaps in understanding and to encourage dialogue, engagement and collective action.
A chartered accountant and a tax and financial advisor, Bokhari previously worked for PwC, KPMG and Baker Tilly.