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Dame Asha receives top award from Prime Minister David Cameron

Posted: 07 November 2014

Principal and chief executive of West Nottinghamshire College Group, Dame Asha Khemka, has spoken of her immense pride at receiving a prestigious award from Prime Minister David Cameron.

Dame Asha was named ‘Woman of the Year’ at the GG2 Leadership Awards 2014 on Wednesday (5 November 2014) for her outstanding work and commitment to improving and providing a fair education for all.

Mr Cameron presented her with the acclaimed accolade at a glittering gala event at the Westminster Park Plaza Hotel, London, which attracted a diverse and powerful audience of high-achievers from the fields of entertainment, politics, media and industry.

Launched in 1999, the annual awards are presented to leading members of the Asian community who have made a considerable contribution to their respective fields.

Organised by the Asian Media and Marketing Group (AMG), they showcase achievement, talent and leadership across a broad range of sectors and from the UK’s diverse ethnic communities. All award-winners are outstanding individuals who have excelled in their areas of work and in many cases triumphed against the odds.

Dame Asha said: “It is deeply humbling and a true honour to receive this prestigious award in the company of so many other high-achieving Asians.

“The UK has given me life-enhancing opportunities that helped me discover my strengths and fulfil my dreams; it is the Indian spirit of entrepreneurialism and determination that has enabled me to turn those strengths and dreams into a successful career in education.

“I have dedicated a lifetime to inspiring and encouraging young people to succeed and realise their true potential; I feel a deep sense of responsibility to give something back to the country that has done so much for me.

“I dedicate this award to the hundreds of young people I see every single day and will continue to nurture their amazing potential with the same hunger and determination as ever.”

Kalpesh Solanki, group managing editor at AMG, said: “The GG2 Leadership Awards recognise and celebrate achievement of exceptional individuals who have excelled and broken through barriers. Their triumph through adversity makes them remarkable people who deserve to be recognised.”

Born and raised in Sitamarhi – a small town in the Indian state of Bihar – Dame Asha was married at the age of 15 and came to the UK in 1978 with her husband Shankar and their three young children.

After spending 20 years as a full-time housewife, Dame Asha returned to education as a mature student. She began her career as a college business studies lecturer in 1987 and enjoyed a meteoric rise through the ranks of Further Education.

Since joining West Nottinghamshire College Group as principal and chief executive in May 2006, Dame Asha has been instrumental in transforming it into one of the most successful colleges in the country.

Today, she is widely-regarded as a leading figure in the world of education and skills and sits on many national educational boards and committees.

Her charity, the Inspire and Achieve Foundation, has helped more than 400 young people not in education, employment or training to get their lives back on track through outreach activities leading to specially-tailored vocational programmes.

She is the founding chair of the Association of Colleges in India – an organisation set up to progress links between educational institutions in the UK and in India – and a member of the Indo-British Trade Council.

Dame Asha is no stranger to Mr Cameron, having accompanied both him and Deputy Prime Minister Mr Clegg on their respective three-day trade missions to India in February 2013 and August 2014.

She was made a Dame in the New Year Honour Lists 2014 in recognition of her services to education; becoming the first Indian-born in 83 years to be awarded the title.

Photos courtesy of GG2 Leadership Awards 2014

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