Jasvinder Sanghera’s blog
October 18, 2012
In 2007, Jasvinder Sanghera won a Women of the Year special award for her work campaigning for the rights of victims of forced marriage, domestic violence and honour killings. In 1993, Jasvinder founded Karma Nirvana, a support group for victims of honour-based violence, and since then she has fought to expose the scandal of honour-based violence and bring about legislative change.
This year, Jasvinder was part of the judging panel which selected the winners of the special awards for 2012.
Jasvinder reflects on her experience at the Women of the Year Lunch in 2007, and what winning an Award meant to her.
“It was the most enlightening experience to be amongst so many inspirational women at the Woman of the Year Lunch. It’s a reminder of how, when women come together for a common purpose, there can be great strength in unity. The Lunch is also a fantastic networking opportunity.
“It’s difficult to express what receiving the award felt like as I had so many emotions. As women we are united by many struggles, and I have had my fair share of those, so it was a privilege to be recognised!
“I am somebody’s daughter, sister and mother, albeit disowned by my family for standing against a forced marriage. The award was again validation that I had made the right choice as it acknowledged my contribution across the world to the cause. It’s these kinds of awards that keep you going as a reminder of how one woman’s experience is that of many and, importantly, that I am not alone. The ceremonies are so important for remembering the many advocates out there – many of whom give up their own peace of mind in order to help others – and for making sure that these women are recognised, supported and held with the greatest of respect and admiration.
“I was delighted to be asked to be a judge this year and jumped at the chance! To be part of something that acknowledges women who make changes for the greater good is a privilege and a blessing. It is difficult to make such decisions but the calibre of the judges and applications was extremely high and it was a great experience to be around the table.
“The women who continue to inspire me are survivors and I hear from and meet many of them. Out of their own courage they learn to walk again in order to fly – many with little support. They represent many women and their voices keep me inspired. As a society it is so important that we not only hear them but engage with them.
“I would say my biggest achievement is the charity Karma Nirvana, whose work continues to reach thousands of victims who can seek help through the national Helpline. The work has changed the way people tackle forced marriages, creating laws and changing attitudes that continue to create societal change – and this is now spreading internationally.
“My second biggest achievement is my book Shame, in which I share my personal story. I could not have imagined that its impact would be so great that it helped to create a new law in the UK, and is often referred to as a political weapon! Last but not least my three children, whose lives were also blighted by their mother being disowned – there is a gap on their mother’s side that has never been filled. They are one of my greatest achievements as my family told me I was dead in their eyes and that not only I would fail, but also my children. They are the most loving, compassionate and driven children and inspire me every day.
“My goals are to take these issues to a greater level, and our work has already turned the Prime Minister’s head to the degree that he has pledged to make this a criminal offence next year. My work is increasingly taking me to the international arena as I would like to replicate our achievements in the UK across countries the world over. I think I have made a significant start and now others are taking the reins, which is how it should be. As I write my new novel I cannot help thinking of the Parliamentary change it could inspire. Who knows… there is much for me still to do and I am as passionate and committed as I was back in 1993 about contributing towards changes for the many women in our communities whose experiences matter so much. Watch this space…”