AWAs: Celebrating the power of our female diversity

Winners of the Asian Women of Achievement Awards 2019

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Asian Women of Achievement Awards, founded by Pinky Lilani CBE DL. Held on April 29th at Hilton Park Lane, London, this year’s milestone ceremony once again bestowed trophies upon 14 female ambassadors, each a role model in their respective professional sectors.

Guests, resplendent in dazzling outfits, entered the venue through its swivelling doors and headed up the red-carpeted staircase to the champagne reception, then to The Ballroom where the awards were presented. The glittering evening, themed Inspiring women changing Britain, featured a four-course meal and a charity raffle in aid of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. The awards were presented by Riz Lateef, presenter, BBC London News.

The prestigious round-table event is the brainchild of Pinky Lilani OBE DL, a humble lady. Donning a light-coloured sari, Pinky described the finalists “dedicated and determined”. She added: “I feel hugely proud to stand with this group of inspiring women.”

Pinky was sat on the top table along with Lord Jitesh Gadhia, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Cherie Blair CBE QC, HRH Princess Badiya bint El Hassan and chair of judges, Sir Nicholas Young, former CEO, British Red Cross. The judging panel comprised of 27 judges; 21 female and 6 male.

Finalists at the Asian Women of Achievement Awards 2019

Sadiq Khan, commenting on Sir Young’s shiny attire, said he looked like a groom.  Referring to the finalists, Mr Khan said: “You are all great pioneers showing the way for others to follow in your trailblazing footsteps”. He also paid a glowing tribute to Pinky and asked all to show appreciation by applause. He said that Pinky had led these awards through “optimism, compassion and kindness”. He added: “I’ve been blessed because throughout my life there are many Asian women who have inspired me; my mum, my sister, my wife, my daughters and many others from Mishal Hussain to Meera Syal, from Riz Lateef to Nusrat Ghani, from Baroness Sayeda Warsi to Baroness Shami Chakrabarti and of course, Pinky”.

The 14 women selected as category winners were:

Arts & Culture: Comedian Sindhu Vee

With degrees from top universities, a career in investment banking, three children and a huge Labrador, Sindhu decided it was time to move into comedy. She has since won numerous awards, and has performed all over the world. She shows the next generation that it is possible to fulfil your dreams no matter how unorthodox they may seem, and it was this (and her fearlessness) that made a significant impact on the judges.

Business: Rajinder Bassi, Partner, Kirkland & Ellis

Rajinder is a leading international arbitration lawyer and a driving force behind the Kirkland & Ellis London litigation team’s participation in Employment & Support Allowance appeals. She is Co-chair of the Women in Law Empowerment Forum; a leading member of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and de facto Head of Kirkland’s Women’s Leadership Initiative, London. Judges commended Rajinder for staying true to her values at all times, and always seeking to help others.

Entrepreneur: Dr Yoge Patel, CEO, Blue Bear Group

Yoge is the founder of Blue Bear Group, a collection of pioneering SMEs specialising in autonomy and unmanned systems, live and virtual simulation, and drone inspection systems. Yoge excels at taking new technology to market but also balances this with consulting as a thought-leader on UK strategy and policy for defence and security. In the words of the judges: ‘Yoge’s vision is to help the UK realise its goal to be the market leader in artificial intelligence and machine learning, and she is certainly on her way to achieving this.’

Professions: Shruti Ajitsaria, Head of Fuse, Allen & Overy

Whilst on maternity leave, Shruti had the idea for a tech innovation space at Allen & Overy. Her proposal received funding in 2017 and was launched later that year. Since then, she has headed up Fuse, responsible for growing its impact all over the world, selecting companies to participate in the programme and ensuring lawyer engagement and graduate recruitment. Working to bring change to an industry that needs it, Shruti impressed the judges.

Public Service: Parpinder Dhatt, CEO, Sandwell Asian Family Support

Parpinder, affectionately known also as Poppy, has led the Sandwell Asian Family Support Service, or SAFSS, for 27 years, providing a lifeline for many Asian families caring for disabled children. Determined to widen her support for the vulnerable, Parpinder’s vision is to create opportunities and meaningful experiences for children and young people with disabilities so that they reach their full potential.

Media: Anu Anand, Presenter, Marketplace Morning Report, BBC World Service

Anu has made an outstanding contribution to the BBC World Service where she has worked as a radio reporter and presenter for 18 years. She’s worked in India for six years, reporting for programmes including Newshour, Newsday and many others. She now presents a global business programme, produced by the BBC, for Marketplace – America’s most successful business broadcast.

Sport: Archie Kalyana, Producer and Director, Sport Production

Archie is one of the most sought after producers and directors in sport production. She is shaping the sports broadcasting landscape by working closely with influential clients such as BBC Sport, UEFA, The FA, Olympic Broadcasting Services and the International Cricket Council. She champions diversity and has clearly outlined her plans to introduce strong female coverage to any of her productions.

Young Achiever 1: Sonia Adesara, Medical Doctor, NHS

Sonia is an NHS doctor, specialising in general practice. A determined advocate and campaigner for women’s rights, equality and social justice, Sonia is Co-Chair of the Medical Women’s International Association; Communications for Doctors for Choice UK and a director at 50:50 Parliament, an organisation campaigning for a more diverse parliament.

Young Achiever 2: Shruthi Vijayakumar, Associate, Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship

Shruthi is currently an Associate at the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship where she leads various programmes for students to develop their leadership abilities and build hard-skills that will help them contribute to positive social and environmental change. She also runs her own coaching business, and has been recognised as a Global Sharper by the World Economic Forum.

Social & Humanitarian: Bhavna Keane-Rao, Founder & CEO, BKR Consultancy

Bhavna specialises in working with a range of care providers and local authorities across the UK, supporting best practice initiatives and developing a safer care environment that has a real impact on the lives of care home residents. She has over 28 years’ of experience within regulation, health and social care and the development of quality standards and she is 100% committed to protecting those who are not able to protect themselves.

Technology & Digital: Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, President, techUK

Jacqueline has risen to the top of major technology businesses to accelerate the growth of software companies such as Citrix, McAfee and CA-Technologies. Today she sits as President of techUK; President of Digital Leaders and the Co-Chair of the Institute of Coding, amongst many other Non-Executive roles. Person by person, business by business, Jacqueline is creating a movement for change, massively advancing the diversity and inclusion agenda.

Science: Manisha Nair, Senior Epidemiologist & Research Fellow, University of Oxford

Manisha’s research focuses on improving the lives of mothers and babies across the world. She has research projects in India and Uganda, and leads a UK-India research collaboration called MaatHRI. She is a world-leading talent in the field of global maternal and child health research.

Real Estate, Infrastructure and Construction: Sherin Aminossehe, Head of Offices, Lendlease

Sherin has led major international regeneration projects and has played a key role in Whitehall, changing the way the government deals with its assets, saving £1bn a year in running costs and delivering £3.6bn in receipts. At Lendlease, she is responsible for 12.5 million sq ft of projects in London, Milan and Birmingham. Sherin’s drive, energy and personal journey so impressed the judges.

Chairman’s Award: Dr Nitha Naqvi, Consultant Paediatric Cardiologist, Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust

Nitha is a consultant paediatric cardiologist at Royal Brompton Hospital, saving children’s lives each day. Nationally, she is the Congenital Heart Disease Network Director for 23 hospitals and has also run congenital heart disease courses teaching approximately 1,000 doctors to perform heart scans to save lives. She is the first British Asian female paediatric cardiologist in the UK.

For more information on the awards visit