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MAY 2011
THE INDEPENDENT

Inspirational! Asian women of achievement

A 15-year-old novelist, a police sergeant and a TV chef are among the inspiring figures whose contribution to British life will be recognised at this year's Asian Women of Achievement Awards on Thursday.

Now in its 12th year, the ceremony acknowledges "often unsung Asian heroines" and champions their work in fields such as the arts, media, business and public sector. Previous winners have included the comedian Shazia Mirza, BBC news correspondent Razia Iqbal, and Ruby McGregor-Smith, the first Asian woman to head a FTSE 250 business.

This year's judging panel – which includes Margareta Pagano, this newspaper's Business Editor, and is headed by Sir Nicholas Young, the chief executive of the British Red Cross – has shortlisted 44 women across eight categories from several hundred entries. There will also be a chairman's award presented to another inspiring woman at the ceremony at the London Hilton Park Lane hotel.

Organisers say the event, which will be attended by Shami Chakrabarti, the Liberty director and civil rights activist, and James Caan, the former Dragons' Den panellist, aims to bring to the attention of the public some of the incredible achievements by Asian women.

This year, judges were particularly struck by how often nominees had struggled against the odds to succeed, and also by the youthfulness of many of those involved.

Shazia Awan, the founder of the underwear brand Peachy Pink and winner of the Entrepreneur of the Year category at the 2010 Awards, said the event provided a "fantastic platform for young women".

Here, we profile a candidate from each category and list the others.

Young achiever

Shireen Irani

29, is London lawyer and founder of the non-profit website iProbono, connecting civil society organisations to lawyers and students

"My parents are from Bombay. I grew up in Dorset and from 14 to 18 attended an American international school in India. I started iProbono because lawyers get such a bad rap, and are vilified as ambulance chasers and money wasters.

"The people I know went into law believing in social justice, wanting to make a change and wanting to do something positive in society: i-pro-bono allows people to participate and contribute skills. So the real estate lawyer who is doing corporate work can now help an orphanage in India. We help an African prison project which recruits young lawyers and students to go out to a prisons in Uganda, to make sure prisoners' rights are being upheld."

Also shortlisted

Swati Bhargava, CEO and co-founder, Pouring Pounds, an innovative cash-back website.

Akanksha Hazari, MBA student, University of Cambridge.

Priya Lakhani, MD, Masala Masala, who left her legal career to become an entrepreneur.

Meheen Rangoonwala-Damal, director, trustee and founder, of charity Multi-Agency International Training and Support.

Divya Talwar, broadcast journalist, BBC Asian Network.

This full article can be found on The Independent