Wales

Welsh Asian women's achievements celebrated with awards

Professor Meena Upadhyaya
Image caption Meena Upadhyaya says her experience is driving her to help others

Asian women from all walks of life have been celebrated an awards ceremony in Cardiff pioneered by a university professor who wants to share her experiences and empower others.

A total of 21 women were nominated for the Welsh Asian Women Achievement Awards (WAWAA).

Prof Meena Upadhyaya was inspired when she was put forward for another award.

"I looked round the room and saw there were no other Asian women. That was the catalyst," she said.

Prof Upadhyaya, who is now internationally recognised in her role as professor of medical genetics at Cardiff University, said although she did not win, being at those awards drove her to do more.

"I had dedicated my life to work," she said. "I feel that all my life I have done science, but now I wanted to give something back to the wider community and to share my experiences with women."

It could have all been so different, as she readily admits.

She moved to the UK from what she calls a comfortable and privileged life in Delhi more than 30 years ago.

While her husband was initially a student in Scotland, she was happy to live as a housewife and as a mother to their young daughter.

But then, she admitted, she got bored and accustomed to going round shopping centres, and wanted to get a job.

"I expected I would get a job at Woolworths. But my husband was horrified. He said he could not go out to work because my family back in India would think he could not support me."

Instead, a long and successful medical career was to follow - an MSc from Edinburgh to add to the BSc she had gained in India, and then a PhD from Cardiff, and a fellowship from the Royal College of Pathologists.

But for most of those years Prof Upadhyaya was on her own after her husband's early death at 35.

She said it had been difficult rising to the top of her chosen career path being Asian and a woman.

"I felt excluded, I had to work so hard to achieve in a world dominated by men. And now I want to pass on all my experiences and help others," she said.

"But my experience also shows it's never too late to change. Everybody has potential."

The awards have grown since their launch two years ago, with about 300 guests attending the Cardiff City Hall ceremony on Saturday night.

Prof Upadyaya said as well as an extra category - life achievement - this year's ceremony had invited women from more Asian countries and gained sponsorship.

She was "privileged and inspired" to be involved with the those taking part - role models not just for their communities but also for women as a whole.

"Our aim is to empower these women so that they can be role models, not only for the Asian community, but also Welsh women," she said.

In the future they intend to use the platform to tackle issues which affect women in the community such as domestic violence, sex trafficking and education.

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