Why our Asian young achievers must be celebrated – Dr Mohammed Ali
Their stories, and those of the scores of others who were nominated, shone a light on the great progress we have seen in breaking down barriers which minority communities have faced over the last 30 years.
And we can look across the nation and see the strides we have made in racial integration since I formed the QED Foundation back in 1990.
We have representation that would have been unimaginable back then at all levels of society, including in the highest level of government and at the top echelons of our national broadcasters.
But we still have a long way to go, and institutional racism sadly remains within our society and around the world.
The George Floyd murder last year was the tip of an iceberg in terms of systematic prejudice that still exists against minority groups.
The shocking killing of four members of a Muslim family in a truck attack in Ontario, an attack the police have described as Islamaphobic, is the latest in a long line of such crimes.
And there is no doubt that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been felt more keenly by ethnic minorities in this country. That is why it is so important we highlight the positive stories of those who have broken through these barriers and overcome the challenges, and have shown what it is possible to achieve, despite the obstacles.
Our Yorkshire Young Achievers Awards – the YAYAs – was set up last year to do just that. It is the ﬁrst scheme of its kind to recognise the efforts of young people aged 16-30 who are of South Asian heritage and who were born, or are living and working, in Yorkshire.
Its focus is on those who have overcome deprivation and disadvantage or have broken through traditional barriers to progress. The awards aim to promote social mobility among young South Asians; to identify role models and help inspire others; and to encourage them to discover further and higher education opportunities.
We highlighted 14 winners representing some tremendous achievements within the South Asian community. Our Yorkshire Young Achiever of the Year Mohammed Ali Hussain, for example, overcame a chaotic upbringing, having been placed in care at 18 months because of family issues, and being bullied at the children’s home he was placed in and at school.
He went on to achieve incredible academic success – he is now studying Physics with Astro-Physics at the University of Hull – and has shown real community responsibility by helping those facing the same difficulties as himself, having been chair of the Bradford Children in Care Council (CICC) representing young people in care and care leavers in the district. He spearheaded many changes, taking his own experiences and using them to promote improvements to help others.
His story, along with those of all who won or were nominated last year, can inspire the next generation and help to cultivate even greater opportunities for them.
Things have improved in the last 30 years. Equality legislation has made it more difficult to discriminate against people on the basis of their faith or ethnicity.
There has also been increasing recognition that a diverse population offers social and economic benefits. A growing number of progressive leaders have campaigned hard for equality and social justice.
Our vision at QED remains the same. We will continue to run training and development activities to help us achieve our objectives, including English language courses, essential to the successful integration of new arrivals and refugees.
We have so far directly helped 35,000 people to increase their knowledge, confidence, and skills, so that they can succeed in every area of life.
And we will continue to connect public and private sector leaders to community influencers, helping them to recruit, retain and develop a diverse workforce and customer base.
The YAYA awards will help us move closer to the day when we don’t need an event like this, and when the work of QED is done.
That is still many, many, years away, but every year we get a little closer to that goal.
To submit an entry for this year’s YAYAs or find out more, go to https://theyayas.org.uk
Dr Mohammed Ali OBE is chief executive of the Bradford-based QED Foundation.
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