A lawyer, a businesswoman, a campaigner and a cabinet minister, Pakistani-origin British Parliamentarian Baroness Sayeeda Warsi is a source of inspiration for youth and emerging leaders who wish to obtain prominent status in domestic and international political arena. She is also considered as an iconic pride for Pakistanis living in Briton as well as across the globe for her kind hearted and helping approach towards Pakistanis and Muslims.
Sayeeda Warsi draws on her own unique position in British life, as the child of Pakistani immigrants, an outsider, who became an insider, the UK’s first Muslim Cabinet minister, to explore questions of cultural difference, terrorism, surveillance, social justice, religious freedom and integration. Despite hailing from working class background, Baroness Warsi rose to the status of Senior Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Minister for Faith and Communities at the Department for Communities and Local Government from September 2012 to August 2014 solely by dint of her hard work, long political struggle as well as strong will power.
Previously she had also been Chairman of the Conservative Party and Minister without Portfolio. Sayeeda has consistently been voted one of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world. She played several gigantic r o l e s i n British politics, but she is best k n o w n f o r being the first Muslim to serve in a British cabinet. In August 2014 she resigned from Government citing the Government’s morally indefensible policy on Gaza. Sayeeda studied l a w a t Leeds University, going on to work for the Crown Prosecution Service before setting up her own legal practice.
Her father, a former mill-worker and bus driver who set up his own business, instilled in her values of freedom, responsibility and aspiration. Inspired, she got involved in the Conservative Party and it was there that she became Vice Chairman and advisor to the leader, Michael Howard, in 2004.
In 2005, she stood as a Parliamentary candidate in Dewsbury. In 2007 she was elevated to the House of Lords aged 36, making her the youngest peer in Parliament. Later that year she travelled to Sudan and famously helped to secure the release of the British teacher Gillian Gibbons who was on trial for blasphemy.
In 2010 she was appointed by Prime Minister David Cameron as Minister without Portfolio, becoming the first Muslim to serve as a Cabinet Minister. The iconic images of her on the steps of No 10 Downing Street in a shalwar kameez beamed around the world. She was also appointed as Chairman of the Conservative Party the first Asian to chair a major British political party. In 2012, Sayeeda was made Senior Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister for Faith and Communities.
Outspoken and challenging on the issues that many people seek to avoid, she has become an interesting and distinct voice on topics previously considered taboo. She led the government’s campaign to criminalise forced marriage and spoke out on the sexual grooming of children by gangs.
She also spearheaded the party’s Social Action agenda both domestically and internationally, setting up Project Maja, which has brought politicians and volunteers together to deliver projects in the poorest parts of Bosnia, Herzegovina, Bangladesh, and Turkey. Her business background and her passion for manufacturing have made her a champion for British business both at home and abroad.
Sayeeda has been a major driver of four start-up businesses; two in the service sector and two in manufacturing, all of which developed into vibrant and successful SME’s. In Government she led the campaign to ensure that Britain became the first western country to issue a Sukuk (Islamic bond), which was issued in 2014. She also Chaired the Global Islamic Finance & Investment Group.
Sayeeda is a Trustee of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and Chair of the Baroness Warsi Foundation. The Foundation focuses on three programme areas; social mobility, gender equality and freedom of religious belief. She is also a Trustee of the Savayra Foundation, a UK registered charity which works in Pakistan to empower widows, divorcees and orphan girls through skills, education and other poverty relief programmes.
Sayeeda is passionate that education is the opportunity that makes anything possible. She is committed to widening access to Higher Education for all. Sayeeda is an International Advisor to Australia Catholic University, a Visiting Professor at St Marys the oldest Catholic university in the UK, an Advisor to Georgetown University, Washington D.C, and Pro Vice Chancellor at the University of Bolton. She has also been awarded Honorary Doctorates from Aston, Birmingham City, and Bolton universities, as well as from the University of Law.
Sayeeda has volunteered all her life, from her community work through to racial justice issues, and she has helped with fundraising for a wide range of charities. She was a member of the Dewsbury Rotary Club and was the founder and now trustee of the Savayra Foundation UK.
She has always highlighted the importance of Social Action and in 2005, with her colleagues, presented the first Conservative Party social action projects to the Party Conference in Blackpool. Sayeeda describes Social Action as “doing your bit, or mucking in” as they say in Yorkshire. ayeeda established the Savayra Foundation UK in 2002 for which she is currently the trustee. From 2002-2005 SFUK supported 400 destitute women and their families in Kashmir and since 2005, they have moved from traditional aid work to financial empowerment. Most recently the Savayra Foundation rebuilt a village in the flood stricken area of KP in Pakistan. Click hereto visit the Savayra Foundation.
During her three years as Shadow Minister for Social Action Sayeeda helped to make Social Action part of the Conservative Party’s DNA. In 2008 Sayeeda led The Welsh House Farm Community Transformation project in Quinton, Birmingham. The social action team worked with the Welsh House Farm residents to support their efforts to better their community.
The Haven centre which is the hub of the youth work that takes place on the estate had a makeover and the Multi Use Games Area or MUGA as the residents call it also benefited from some TLC. During the 2009 Manchester Party Conference the Radcliffe girls and boys also went through a similar transformation. With the help of the community, volunteers renovated and rejuvenated the Radcliffe Boys and Girls Club.
In 2009 Sayeeda and 32 parliamentarians, candidates, and senior volunteers worked together with the inspirational charity Fund for Refugees both in Srebrenica and Sarajevo. In 2011 Project Maja went to Bangladesh, a country with which the United Kingdom has deep historical, social and economic ties. Over the space of seven days the team, consisting of MPs, an MEP, activists and volunteers conducted education, sports, renovation and health projects. Project Maja Bangladesh concluded with an epic 20 Twenty cricket match against the Bangladeshi parliamentarians.
Recently, Baroness Sayeeda paid visit to Pakistan with a headache schedule and met Prime Minister Imran Khan and exchanged views on multiple issues including the human rights violation in Indian occupied Kashmir and the overall security situation. The bilateral relations between the United Kingdom and Pakistan also came under discussion.
The Prime Minister’s special assistant on matters related to oversees Pakistanis, Zulfiqar Bukhari, was also present on the occasion. It may be recalled that Warsi, along with a delegation comprising Naz Shah, and Parliamentarians Faisal Rasheed and John Davis, had met PM Khan in February as well. In her last meeting, Warsi, the leader of UK Conservative Party, had also appreciated Premier Khan’s vision and leadership, besides condemning the atrocities of Indian government in held Kashmir.
Author is an Executive Editor of Mélange int’l Magazine and Secretary Information Center of Pakistan and International Relations (COPAIR)