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MEENAL

I accept this degree with thanks and continued determination…

Last month I received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of West London (UWL) for the work Shiva Foundation has done and is doing to fight Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking in the UK. Professor Alexadros Paraskevas, who we worked with closely whilst writing a blueprint to tackle slavery in the hotel sector, kindly nominated me for the award. It took me by surprise and I choose to write about my experience because so many young people and women from ethnic backgrounds that I meet, feel they can’t achieve such things. I am no different to any of them and, to this end, would like to share a little about my day at UWL.

As I waited during the ceremony to receive my award, I thought of all the people who made this possible. I first thought of my family (both my husband’s and mine) and wonderful friends for their ceaseless belief and encouragement. Next, I thought of Nishma Jethwa, a friend and senior advisor to Shiva Foundation, who helped articulate and give shape to a simple idea that started in 2012. I thank you all – and I also thank Sian Lea and the Foundation team that works tirelessly to say NO to human trafficking and other human rights violations. Of course, I was grateful for the honour I/we were about to receive, but I also reflected on how sad it is that this work is even necessary and that slavery still exists in 2019.

Like most of us, I go through real moments of uncertainty and confusion and don’t always know if I am headed in the right direction. I take this moment in time as a little sign to reassure and to re-energise myself to move forward – together – to make these violations of human rights unacceptable by the end of my lifetime.

UWL Graduation 2019
Ceremony 4
Honouree- Meenal Sachdev

Meenal’s Speech:

Good morning Chancellor, Pro-Chancellor, Chair of the Board of Governors, Vice-Chancellor, Governors, Honoured Guests, Ladies, Gentlemen and Graduands.

It is a great privilege, albeit humbling, to receive this honorary degree by the University of West London. I stand here and ask myself how I might be worthy of such an honour. Never would I have thought, when I left university, that one day I would receive an honorary doctorate. I’m a local councillor in Hertsmere and co-founder of Shiva Foundation, but most importantly I am a mother of two young boys because of whom I choose to walk the talk and to fight the cause I passionately believe in.

When I first learned about the issue of human trafficking and modern slavery a number of years ago, I was disturbed by both how heinous and prevalent it is, in this country as much as the next. There are 40 million people living in modern slavery globally; estimates put the number at 136,000 in the UK alone. It is easier to smuggle humans into the UK than drugs. It is cheaper to buy a girl in India than a buffalo. And to be clear, when I speak about modern slavery, I’m talking about millions of people forced by threat, coercion and violence, to work in exploitative conditions (whether for sex or labour). Prompted into action and raring to fight for its end, my husband and I started Shiva Foundation in 2012.

I don’t believe in repetition – there are already many great organisations working hard to tackle the issue. Instead, I want to support them and to amplify the voices of the survivors. I also want to promote education and awareness – because, from the clothes we buy to the food we eat, we could be inadvertently supporting slavery. Saying that, it is not any one person’s responsibility. Together, we need to create systemic change and to build preventative measures. Trafficking networks are clever and well organised. We too have to get organised. So, if I merit this honorary doctorate in any way, it is because our team at Shiva Foundation is elevating the good work of others and trying to create an anti-trafficking movement that can one day put itself out of business.

If Shiva Foundation can be a part of the solution by enabling consumers, businesses and the government to join in the fight, then I accept this degree with thanks and continued determination to ensure that we keep working to end human rights violations. I will finish by saying: The future is yours, the future is you and the future will be determined by your choices today. Be mindful, ask the right questions, and understand the difference that one person, that you, can make.

Last month I received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of West London (UWL) for the work Shiva Foundation has done and is doing to fight Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking in the UK. Professor Alexadros Paraskevas, who we worked with closely whilst writing a blueprint to tackle slavery in the hotel sector, kindly nominated me for the award. It took me by surprise and I choose to write about my experience because so many young people and women from ethnic backgrounds that I meet, feel they can’t achieve such things. I am no different to any of them and, to this end, would like to share a little about my day at UWL.

As I waited during the ceremony to receive my award, I thought of all the people who made this possible. I first thought of my family (both my husband’s and mine) and wonderful friends for their ceaseless belief and encouragement. Next, I thought of Nishma Jethwa, a friend and senior advisor to Shiva Foundation, who helped articulate and give shape to a simple idea that started in 2012. I thank you all – and I also thank Sian Lea and the Foundation team that works tirelessly to say NO to human trafficking and other human rights violations. Of course, I was grateful for the honour I/we were about to receive, but I also reflected on how sad it is that this work is even necessary and that slavery still exists in 2019.

Like most of us, I go through real moments of uncertainty and confusion and don’t always know if I am headed in the right direction. I take this moment in time as a little sign to reassure and to re-energise myself to move forward – together – to make these violations of human rights unacceptable by the end of my lifetime.

Good morning Chancellor, Pro-Chancellor, Chair of the Board of Governors, Vice-Chancellor, Governors, Honoured Guests, Ladies, Gentlemen and Graduands.

It is a great privilege, albeit humbling, to receive this honorary degree by the University of West London. I stand here and ask myself how I might be worthy of such an honour. Never would I have thought, when I left university, that one day I would receive an honorary doctorate. I’m a local councillor in Hertsmere and co-founder of Shiva Foundation, but most importantly I am a mother of two young boys because of whom I choose to walk the talk and to fight the cause I passionately believe in.

When I first learned about the issue of human trafficking and modern slavery a number of years ago, I was disturbed by both how heinous and prevalent it is, in this country as much as the next. There are 40 million people living in modern slavery globally; estimates put the number at 136,000 in the UK alone. It is easier to smuggle humans into the UK than drugs. It is cheaper to buy a girl in India than a buffalo. And to be clear, when I speak about modern slavery, I’m talking about millions of people forced by threat, coercion and violence, to work in exploitative conditions (whether for sex or labour). Prompted into action and raring to fight for its end, my husband and I started Shiva Foundation in 2012.

I don’t believe in repetition – there are already many great organisations working hard to tackle the issue. Instead, I want to support them and to amplify the voices of the survivors. I also want to promote education and awareness – because, from the clothes we buy to the food we eat, we could be inadvertently supporting slavery. Saying that, it is not any one person’s responsibility. Together, we need to create systemic change and to build preventative measures. Trafficking networks are clever and well organised. We too have to get organised. So, if I merit this honorary doctorate in any way, it is because our team at Shiva Foundation is elevating the good work of others and trying to create an anti-trafficking movement that can one day put itself out of business.

If Shiva Foundation can be a part of the solution by enabling consumers, businesses and the government to join in the fight, then I accept this degree with thanks and continued determination to ensure that we keep working to end human rights violations. I will finish by saying: The future is yours, the future is you and the future will be determined by your choices today. Be mindful, ask the right questions, and understand the difference that one person, that you, can make.