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News 2010
News ->Marquess of Bath and Zerbanoo Gifford inaugurate the Asha Centre

Marquess of Bath and Zerbanoo Gifford inaugurate the Asha Centre
11th May 2010

Zerbanoo Gifford, Founder of the Asha Centre with the Marquess of BathHuman rights campaigner, former politician, author and youth champion Zerbanoo Gifford officially inaugurated the Asha Centre in the Royal Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire on Tuesday 11th May 2010 alongside the Marquess of Bath, the owner of Longleat and one of Asha’s many distinguished patrons. The Asha Centre, which is Zerbanoo’s brainchild, is a place where young people from all over the world come to benefit from its pioneering arts, environment and personal development based leadership courses. Every summer, the Asha Centre hosts a group of young post-graduate women from the Lila Poonawalla Foundation in India, who are given the opportunity to become young peace ambassadors.

Last year, the Centre also welcomed young unemployed South Africans from the townships, who worked on a play about the history of modern South Africa, which they performed for Nelson Mandela when they returned home. Kosovars and Serbs are just a few of the ethnic minority groups who have lived and benefited from the Asha experience, working on how to rebuild their shattered Balkans region and how to co-operate instead of kill. Even the Israeli media hailed Asha’s groundbreaking work with young Jews and Arabs from northern Israel as a significant contribution to the Middle East peace process.

About Zerbanoo Gifford

Zerbanoo Gifford, a generation ago, was the first non-white woman to be elected to political office for the Liberals as a councillor in Harrow. Since then, Zerbanoo stood for parliament three times, including in 1983 against the chairman of the Conservative Party, Lord Cecil Parkinson. Zerbanoo’s courage against racist threats form the BNP put racial violence on the political agenda and ensured that it became an issue that would not be tolerated by politicians, police and the great British public. She went on to become the first non-white to be elected onto the Federal Executive of the Liberal Party. She went on to write the biography of Dadabhai Naoraoji, the first Asian politician to be elected to the British Parliament in 1892. Her latest book is entitled 'Confessions to a Serial Womaniser: Secrets of the World’s Inspirational Women' that profiles more than fifty women.

Lena Choudary, the former CEO of the Confederation of Indian Organisations and the Executive Director of the Mosaic Trust, said, “Zerbanoo was the first to encourage the Asian community to see themselves not just as Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshi etc, but as British Asians. She was everyone’s role model in promoting community cohesion and social integration, and encouraged our ethnic minority communities to be proud of their unique contribution to British life.”

Zerbanoo has been a human rights campaigner throughout her life, and was actively involved in the anti-apartheid movement. Today Zerbanoo is best known for championing the rights of young people, especially street children and young people who are trafficked across borders as sex slaves. She is also at the forefront of training and inspiring young people from around the world to take their rightful role as social activists in their community.

The Inauguration of the Asha Centre

The inauguration of the Asha Centre began with Zoroastrian prayers and the lighting of their holy fire by their High Priest. Then the academic, Dr Rashna Writer of SOAS, London University, explained the meaning and concept of Asha, which has ethical implications of order, righteousness and justice. “These should be the guiding principles of human conduct. The mantra of the twenty-first century is to be environmentally friendly but at Asha it is practised. There is reverence for the earth and the elements and an example is set for the rest of us to emulate. The Asha team is made up of exceptionally gifted individuals who in a few short years have made their Centre such as success, because a very spiritual dimension underlines their work. It encompasses all religions, respects different traditions and is working to make the world a better place, not just in words but in their deeds.”

Satish Kumar, the editor of Resurgence magazine and celebrated Jain peace pilgrim who walked round the world, opened the Asha Centre’s new Golden Tiger Eco Lodge. The Lodge will allow visitors to observe birds and other wildlife without disturbing them and the woods and stream which flows through the Asha Centre’s grounds from Saint Anthony’s Well. Satish told the gathering that the origins of the word ‘eco’ came from the Greek and had its connections with the word ‘ecology’ and ‘economy’ and how these two disciplines are inter-connected. He went on to say that the Asha Centre was a beacon of hope for those who wanted to have a more profound way of living.

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