Nahid has been Chief Executive of the Shantona Women’s Centre for the past 18 years and was officially recognised by the University for her commitment to empowering communities in Leeds.
The Shantona Women’s Centre was established in Leeds in 1998 to offer help and support to women from the Bangladeshi community and employed just two full-time staff, including Nahid.
Since then, Nahid has been responsible for growing it into a diverse, multi-cultural organisation employing 30 staff, which offers women and young children of black and minority ethnicity (BME) an open, transparent service that builds upon their skills and helps bridge the gap between societies.
It now runs a range of services focusing on community cohesion and tackling inequality, and supports women and girls with issues such as domestic violence and child sexual exploitation.
Nahid has carried out several research projects on community cohesion, performance management within the voluntary sector and domestic violence, and, in 2007, she achieved an MBA at Leeds Beckett University.
On receiving her honorary degree, Nahid said: “Receiving this honorary degree is a huge achievement for me: it is recognition for my contribution, because I’m passionate about it, but it’s also getting the recognition from the university where I graduated – I was actually on the other side of things like the students who are graduating today. Now I am getting the honorary graduation and the university recognition, which is a huge achievement for me and for my organisation.”
Under Nahid’s direction, the Shantona Women’s Centre has received various awards and accolades, including the Duke of York Community Initiatives Award in 2007 and 2012, and an A1 Business Excellence Award for Best Women’s Centre in 2015.
As well as being instrumental in the continued success of the Shantona Women’s Centre, Nahid is highly committed to improving race relations and reducing inequality in various sectors, including health and education. She sits on strategic committees engaged with children, education, family support and equality and diversity, and is also a school governor.
Offering her advice to this year’s gradates, Nahid added: “My message to the students graduating today is to be true to your purpose and expect that there will be a lot of challenges that you will come across, which will improve the quality of your journey and your purpose.”
Nahid’s role within the Leeds community has also led to her involvement at a national level, and in 2016 the Shantona Women’s Centre was visited by the then Prime Minister, David Cameron.
She has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of the University today (Wednesday 26 July), for her contribution to the public and voluntary sector in Leeds.
Leeds Beckett University Chancellor, Sir Bob Murray CBE, said: “Nahid’s drive, determination and passion have made a real difference to people’s lives, and we are delighted to recognise her huge contribution to society.
“She herself faced many challenges and prejudices as an Asian woman when she first visited and lived in the UK, and she decided she wanted to do something positive about it, which she most certainly has.
“Nahid’s ambition, to help reduce the inequality and discrimination faced by BME women and girls who live in this country, has seen her work tirelessly to ensure the Shantona Women’s Centre continuously evolves to meet their needs, providing vital support and bridging gaps in society.
“She is a real inspiration who has been fundamental in empowering many women and children.”