The leadership journey of Dame Asha Khemka OBE DBE

Safia Jama

Safia Jama, Director of the Somali Integration Team, blogs about Dame Asha Khemka’s presentation at last year’s Leadership Summit.


Watching Dame Asha Khemka’s speech I can see that from the outset her determination and drive ran deep from a very early age and she persevered through a variety of challenges and obstacles. She met these challenges with courage and continued to meet others through the course of her life head on. While her personal circumstances changed, her approach and vision remained the same, she demanded excellence of herself, her children and those around her.  Her message of constant learning and having a clear vision is one that I think we can all learn from.

I appreciate her example that while she strived for the good of her community, in this case the college, she recognises that the achievements have been made collectively with the support and hard work of a fantastic team of individuals. She leads by example and that is very inspiring.

The need to energise those around us is crucial; the importance of empowering individuals to do the work that’s needed and of surrounding yourself with a team with knowledge and expertise should not be under-estimated. As Co-ordinator of the Somali Integration Team I have seen this first hand.

What’s particularly inspirational is the journey Dame Asha made from student to principal in a matter of 15 years. She explains that, in this time, a lot of learning took place and while she did face a glass ceiling, what she stresses is the constant need for ‘self discovery’, or ‘reflection’ as I like to think of it, as well as learning and development. She stresses the need to share goals and ensure the team are on board.

She mentions that a “disproportionate amount of time was spent engaging communities”.  I can relate to this experience; while I encourage our community to participate and think outside the box, I spend a good proportion of my time engaging with official bodies at local and central government, as well as with partners, to ensure our voices are heard, that the information shared reflects community priorities and that we share in the decision making process.

This is truly a woman who shares the barriers and challenges that most black and minority ethnic women experience.


Watch Dame Asha Khemka OBE DBE:

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