Future business leaders urged to enter inspirational YAYA awards

Sanya Rehman and Zara Mahmood won the young entrepreneur section last year

Future business leaders and high-flying entrepreneurs from the South Asian community in Yorkshire are being urged to enter an inspirational awards scheme.

The Yorkshire Asian Young Achievers Awards – known as The YAYAs – are open to any young person of South Asian heritage (Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi etc) who was born in, or lives and works in, Yorkshire.

Aimed at socially-mobile young achievers who have overcome deprivation and disadvantage or have broken through traditional barriers to progress, the awards attracted scores of entries in its very first year, despite the difficulties created by the pandemic.

A number of categories in the awards, which are now open for entry, are specifically aimed at businesses; others include those working for companies across the region.
They include achievement in the private sector, young entrepreneur, achievement in the arts and creative sector, and achievements in media.

The YAYAS are organised by the Bradford-based QED Foundation, a registered charity which exists to improve the social and economic position of disadvantaged communities in partnership with public, private and civil society organisations, along with their headline partners, York St John University.

After restrictions led to a virtual event last year, a prestigious gala awards night is due to take place at the Cedar Court Hotel, with catering by My Lahore, on November 4 to celebrate the nominees and winners.

Dr Mohammed Ali OBE, Chief Executive of QED, said: “Yorkshire has more than 600,000 BME residents, the vast majority of whom are of South Asian origin. And they continue to struggle to overcome disadvantages in making their way in the world, whether that is in education, employment or social mobility generally.

“We know there are many dynamic, hard-working young people achieving great things across the whole county and these awards are intended to celebrate their achievements and efforts.

“The standard of entries last year was truly remarkable. We had humbling and life-affirming stories of people overcoming the odds to carve their way in life and we feel enormously proud of all those who entered. They were all truly inspirational.”

The awards look to recognise success and effort in overcoming challenges and barriers, be they social, economic, personal, or simply the result of traditional or historical attitudes or circumstances, he said.

“In each area, we’re looking for beacons of success and achievement who can inspire others and be the role models that the young people who follow them can aspire to become and even overshadow.”

Rob Hickey, Chief Operating Officer at York St John University, said: “This was a hugely successful event in its inaugural year, and York St John University is proud to be supporting the YAYAs once again.

“These awards highlight examples of personal endeavour, selfless determination and breaking barriers; qualities which we value and look to replicate in what we do.
“We saw some exceptional examples of these qualities in the entries for the first year, which was a tremendous success. We look forward to seeing many more inspirational entries this year.”

Professor Karen Bryan, Vice Chancellor of York St John University, said: “We celebrate diversity and take pride in our dedication to providing equal opportunity to students from all backgrounds.

“That is why we are so proud to support the YAYAs and celebrate these incredible stories of achievement and inspiration.”

Last year’s winners included Simran Kaur Bhogal in the achievement in the private sector category. Simran, who is based in Wakefield, was the first person in her family to attend university, graduating from Leeds Beckett with an LLB Honours. She now offers legal advice to low income clients and specialises in immigration – working with those from war torn countries such as Iran and Syria.

And Sanya Rehman and Zara Mahmood won the young entrepreneur section after judges were impressed by their story of opening a small market stall when they were friends at school, which they kept going while studying at the University of Huddersfield, before opening their boutique and online operation.

The keynote speaker at this year’s event will be Professor Akbar Ahmed, a former Pakistani High Commissioner to the UK, and an author, poet, playwright, and filmmaker. He is Professor of International Relations and currently holds the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at the American University of Washington DC.

The award categories are Achievement in School or College; Health/Mental Health and Healthcare; The Arts and Creative Industries; the Private Sector; Media; Education; the Public Sector; the Not-for-Profit Sector; Achievement as a Young Entrepreneur; Sport; and Achievement in Overcoming Life Obstacles.