Indian woman to get Asian Woman Achievement Award

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{image-asha khemka_20052008.jpg www.oneindia.com}London, May 20 : An Indian-born woman is among the chosen few to be selected for the 2008 Asian Women of Achievement award. Asha Khemka, the principal of the West Nottinghamshire College, will join a wealth of inspiring and extraordinary women, including, DJ Neev, the voice of Kiss Radio and Pally Pagliuca entrepreneur and founder of Benito Brow Bar in this year's shortlist of awardees. This year's awards will be presented this evening at the London Hilton Park Lane.

Married off at 15 in a remote village in India, Asha came to Britain as a shy mother with three children and no knowledge of English. Today, she is the principal and chief executive of one of the largest colleges in England, serving 20,000 students and has launched a charity to help the most disadvantaged in society.

But it isn't Asian youngsters she thinks need help - but the indigenous white population. That's why Asha has launched Inspire and Achieve Foundation, designed to help the most disadvantaged in society.

"We want to send young people to India, China, Mexico all over. We want to widen their horizons and make them see there is a whole world out there and so many opportunities for them," she told The Sun in an interview.

"People might say, why not support people from ethnic minority backgrounds but I think there has been a lot done to help black and Asian youngsters. There are a lot of initiatives in place to help and we know that Chinese and Indian children do the best at school. All the figures suggest that it is white, working class children, boys in particular who are failing. This is the group I want to target," Khemka added.

"The way I see it, it is a way for me to say thanks to this country for giving me opportunities. It is my way of saying thank you and my way of giving something back," Khemka said.

Recalling her past, she said that she left school at 14, was traditionally married off at 15 to a man who was studying medicine in another town. She followed him to the UK where he gained experience as a newly qualified doctor.

"We came to Birmingham first of all. It was January and the day after I came here it snowed so much. I looked in wonder at the snow and thought it was beautiful. I had a good feeling that I was going to like it here," Khemka said.

She was a stay-at-home mum and unable to speak English, but she watched children's programmes and tried to communicate with the other mums at the mother and toddler groups.

But as her two sons and daughter grew up, it became clear how gifted they were so, Asha and her husband made the difficult decision to send them to boarding school.

With the children away, Asha was able to concentrate on herself for the first time.

"I did a short course first of all, so I could help my husband in his consultantcy. I breezed through this so did another course and then more until I completed a degree in Business Studies."

She relished her job as a part-time lecturer and then quickly progressed to full-time, rising through the ranks to become prinicipal of West Nottinghamshire College in 2006.

An ambitious woman she says she sometimes felt thwarted by how long it took to get to her dream job. Now, she is leading a 100-million pound plan for a new college in Mansfield and has launched the foundation.

"Our area of 300,000 only has four per cent ethnic minorities so the main background of students is white."

She says she feels women who cosset themselves within their own communities and do not learn English are missing out.

"I knew from the minute I set foot here, okay, the culture is different and it is not the same as in India, but I knew straightaway that I would have opportunities here that I wouldn't have there. And that has been proved true.

"This country has given me so much and I will be eternally grateful for that," she said.

Established in 1999, the Asian Women of Achievement awards are the most prestigious awards of their type, and have been supported by our patron Cherie Booth QC, as well as HRH The Prince of Wales.

ANI

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