Revised system will help honour ethnic minority ‘heroes’

Imam Mohamed Mahmoud with his OBE for services to the community of London at an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace. (Photo by Victoria Jones WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Original article published on 11th April 2019

National board member, Prince’s Trust Mosaic Initiative

THE welcome race disparity audit published by the government two years ago showed that Britain’s ethnic minorities have come a long way in many areas of public life in recent times, though there is still much to be done to bridge the gaps of inequality and representation.

Harris Bokhari OBE

Home secretary Sajid Javid, London mayor Sadiq Khan, Church of England priest Rose Hudson-Wilkin, and now the Duchess of Sussex holding prominent public office, however, provide reasons to hope that the establishment is starting to reflect modern Britain – a society that is diverse, dynamic and vibrant, one that looks to the future, rather than clings onto the past.

There is, however, one last bastion of the establishment that people from minority backgrounds have yet to fully break into – the honours system. It is designed to celebrate the achievements of individuals who have made a significant contribution  to public life, and those who have committed themselves to serving Britain. This can be through a variety of ways, not least charitable activities and working with disenfranchised communities.

The question, however, for many Britons, and especially those from BAME communities is, how does someone get an honour? For most, the honours system is seen as impenetrable and mysterious – we see sports stars and celebrities lining up to receive their awards from the monarch every year, but very few of us have any understanding as  to the process – or wonder if indeed these awards are reserved for a privileged few.

There is still a perception that honours are doled out to dodgy donors or the friends of ministers and MPs who move in circles normal Britons don’t have access to. This is no longer the case. A review of the system means that members of the public sit on the deciding committees, leading to a more robust, transparent and fairer process.

Over the past seven years, we have seen the honours list become more representative and diverse, with now almost half of awardees being women and 12 per cent going to ethnic minorities. This marked increase was due, in the main, to the fantastic work of the former chair of the Honours Diversity and Inclusion committee, Dame Clare Tickell.

We must carry on her efforts, and ensure that, at the very least, half those granted honours are women, and a greater number of minorities, young people, LGBT and those outside the London bubble make the list, so that our honours system fully reflects the diversity of modern Britain. This is not only a matter of diversity for diversity’s sake, a tickbox exercise to make people feel they’re building strong communities, it is about rightfully recognising the achievements of people from minority communities who exist outside the arena of privilege that the honours system is seen to inhabit.

During my time on the honours committee, I have come across a number of barriers that prevent more representation from minority communities. Here is how I think we can  address them.

First, many people don’t even know that they can nominate anyone for an honour. We need to ensure that we are getting the word out to harderto-reach communities and explain the process.

Second, often people from minority backgrounds don’t believe these honours are meant for them. We have to make clear that the system is in place precisely so all those who are deserving of an honour are recognised, no matter their background.

Finally, the process of nomination may come across as daunting, but it needn’t. There are now clear guidelines on how to nominate someone for an honour – go to to find out more. All you will need to do is fill out an online form, describing in no more than 500 words why your nominee is deserving of an award. You will also need to find two people to provide supporting letters of reference.

Now is the best time for us to boost the diversity in the honours system – our nation will be poorer for it if we don’t. So, if you are wondering whether your local youth football coach or charity fundraising volunteer may be eligible for an honour, then go online and fill out a nomination form – you may well be pleasantly surprised

Ethnic minority students must learn to face prejudice

Students from diverse backgrounds today still face the challenge of learning to deal with hostility, writes Harris Bokhari 

The recent anniversary of Enoch Powell’s “Rivers of Blood” speech led to the controversial reading of his complete speech on BBC Radio 4. This was the first time it has been broadcast in its entirety.

At first BBC’s Amol Rajan promoted this as a great media event, but after facing backlash from civil and human rights organisations, he acknowledged the potential distress the reading of the whole speech could cause and clarified the format of the programme. Amol is a champion of ethnic minority rights and I have seen first-hand how he, as a person belonging to an ethnic minority himself, from a working-class background, smashed the glass ceiling by becoming first non-white editor of a mainstream newspaper. Today he continues to mentor and inspire the next generation of journalists from harder-to-reach and underrepresented communities.

Sometimes the power of words can impact and affect individuals in many ways – by opening unhealed wounds brought about from persistent hate speech in the face of the recent rise in hate crime. In my opinion, I think Amol got it right in the end – that it is important we remember the speeches and sentiment; in particular, those ideas that are racist and hate-driven promoted by members of our past establishment, that have shaped the society we live in today. But this should never happen at the cost of forgetting the pain and suffering caused while reflecting on how we should never allow this to happen again.

Racism and prejudice

This was evident when the Naz Legacy Foundation recently arranged for 70 young diverse students from mainly deprived communities to attend our special diversity day, which included a tour of the First Waves Exhibition that celebrates the introduction of the first Race Relations Acts in Parliament 50 years ago. The students were given a personal tour by the Speaker’s Advisory Committee’s own works of art appointee, Scarlett Crawford, and she explained the impact that the Acts had on minority communities and the different aspirational role models whom they could identify with.

After walking down Downing Street and taking selfies outside the famous black doors, they had a chance to question three inspirational MPs, Nusrat Ghani – the first Muslim women minister to speak at the Commons despatch-box; Dawn Butler – the first elected Afro-Caribbean female minister; and Jo Swinson, who was elected as the youngest MP of her intake.

But what impacted the students more was attending home secretary Sajid Javid’s Commons Questions. Having a Muslim from a working-class background as the home secretary no doubt raised the aspirations of the students. However, when an opposition MP said he “sounds like Enoch Powell”, it affected the students the most.

That insult created the biggest discussion amongst the students. Despite the majority of the young people expressing their support for Labour, they found having someone from an ethnic minority compared to the infamous “Rivers of Blood” Powell extremely offensive. Even though most of them disagreed with his policies, they felt admiration for how Sajid dealt with this provocation with calm and logic, reminding them of the difficulties they face as ethnic minorities: both the hostility and the importance of not coming across as angry and defensive when responding to it.

No matter what aspect of someone’s minority identity – be it socioeconomic, race, faith or sexual orientation – it is never an easy journey to reach to the top. All too often women are portrayed as bossy when they lead, black people as aggressive when making a point, and Muslims as angry or extreme when taking their religion seriously.

Despite the students feeling proud that someone from their background can succeed at the highest levels, it also showed them that prejudices, conscious and unconscious, still need to be tackled. They will still need to navigate their own way, to follow those pioneers – but they also need to learn how to overcome the challenges they face when provoked by the double standards with which they are viewed just because of their background.

Our First Waves have changed Britain for the best, but it is our new waves that will define our future.

Harris Bokhari is a national board member of Mosaic – The Prince’s Trust mentoring programme, and founder of the Naz Legacy Foundation

‘It’s short-sighted to dismiss the pupil strikes’

Pupils striking against climate change today should be celebrated – they’re a force for change, says Harris Bokhari

Original article published on 15th March 2019

Throughout history student protests have been instrumental in driving social and political change. Young student demonstrations against apartheid in South Africa drew global attention to the plight of black people and ignited similar protests by students across the world that helped to result in international sanctions. In turn, these sanctions played a key role in dismantling the apartheid government.

Today, hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren have walked out of their classes to join a worldwide climate strike amid growing anger at the failure of politicians to tackle the escalating environmental crisis. The question about the merits of young people protesting raises its head once more.

Few would disagree that climate change is thebiggest existential threat humanity faces. Too often politicians remain focused only on their current term in office and on short-term policymaking to meet the immediate concerns of citizens and ensure they get re-elected. We need braver politicians to rise to the challenge of averting climate catastrophe – and to cooperate to keep global warming below 1.5C – by reimagining some of the unsustainable assumptions that underpin our economy. That includes making the case to the public that this will help us all, taking on powerful vested interests along the way.

This may well be the main lesson to take away from Brexit. Whichever way we voted, the narrative pursued by many – media and politicians alike – over the past few decades promoted the negatives and short-term effects of being in the EU more than the benefits of staying in. When the time to vote came, it should not have been a great surprise that so many wanted to leave. The referendum was decided not in 2016, but by a political culture set fast in the decades before it.

‘Education through meaningful protest’

We can learn lessons from this in tackling climate change. Seemingly radical and bold policies which would mean we would have to change the way our economy works in the short term would require a break, perhaps an unpopular break, from the status quo – but it would benefit us and future generations in the long term. Are our politicians prepared to make the difficult arguments and take on vested interests, like those from the fossil fuel industry? Are we prepared to do what is needed and vote to save the planet for our children and grandchildren?

Despite some politicians scoffing at most of the students demonstrating – claiming that they were there simply to avoid “double maths”  – one day is never going to be a deal breaker when it comes to a student’s future grades. And, by striking on a school day, they got the national and international coverage they needed. This not only increased the debate among students about climate change but, at a time when media coverage is dominated by Brexit, they managed to move the debate in the mainstream media. It was an operation that any leading public relations firm would have been proud of.

The impact of these student demonstrations should not be marred by the very small number who protested in the wrong way  I have witnessed first-hand the enthusiasm of students protesting when I, in my youth, organised protests for international causes for justice and, in particular, against the illegal war in Iraq.  From experience, I can tell you that you can never be in a position to manage all protesters, and you can only do your best, using stewards who are volunteers.  Even though I – along with other protest organisers – would always condemn the actions of the unhelpful minorities, such condemnations are not always reported. This can be frustrating, as it detracts from the arguments being made about why you are protesting in the first place.

I am confident that today’s student protests will lead to the promotion of the same values of integration and inclusion I learned. The power of uniting and bringing together people from all backgrounds, classes, ethnicities, sexual orientations, faiths and no faith around one uniting issue cannot be underestimated. It enables young people to look beyond their conscious and unconscious bias, to meet people they would never normally encounter and, despite their differences, learn they have more in common with each other than what divides them.

This lesson cannot be taught in the classroom. However, by uniting over global issues that impact all of them, it can also help them understand the local issues they are facing – from poverty to knife crime. Protests, then, can be seen as part and parcel of what makes us a healthy democracy. The right to protest, the right to assembly and to freedom of speech were hard-won, and have been even harder to hold on to. To look down on, or to discourage our young people from such a seminal moment in their engagement with the democratic process, and their rights as citizens, rights that are not afforded to many of their counterparts across the world, is short-sighted.

Unlike the anti-Iraq War protests, however, which, of course, did not prevent the war, I ask myself if this latest wave will lead to the real change needed to save the planet, or if, by the time protesters change the mindset of the country, it will be too late?  

Education through meaningful protest can become the most powerful tool to bring about real change in the world. Young people throughout history, from the civil rights movement to the Velvet Revolution, and more recently the movement for gun control by schoolchildren in America, have always been at the forefront of the fight. Their protests have helped to shift attention to issues of global injustice and, in many cases, helped to change them.  

Are we and our political leaders listening to them and, if we don’t, how will this affect both their future behaviour and the ability to effect change in society as a whole?

Harris Bokhari is a national board member of Mosaic – The Prince’s Trust mentoring programme, and founder of the Naz Legacy Foundation

Honours show how ethnic minorities make Britain thrive

Original article published on 15 February 2019 in the Evening Standard

My first interaction with the honours system was when my late father, Naz Bokhari, received an OBE. His tireless work in education, as the first Muslim headteacher and in the community as an activist for a more cohesive and integrated society, had long been recognised and appreciated by those who knew him. 

The wider recognition, in the form a national honour, was a vindication of his efforts. Not only were we proud, as his family, but so were all those in the local community who had benefited from his work, and of course people from other minority backgrounds who then realised that their work may also lead to such deserved recognition. 

This was when I witnessed the power of the honours system. I then saw this again, myself, when I was lucky enough to receive an award for mentoring young people from ethnic minority backgrounds. Those young people felt valued and recognised through the award as well. When a person from a BAME community is honoured for their achievements, the rest of that community vicariously feels a sense of dignity and gratification too. It means much more for the community as a whole. 

In the context of, in some respects, an increasingly fractious and polarised society, the awarding of honours can act as a way to heal wounds, providing recognition for communities that may feel increasingly disenfranchised. These communities are not looking for favours, they just want fairness in the system.

In recent years we have seen the honours list become more representative and diverse, with now almost half of recipients women and 12 per cent from ethnic minorities. There are, however, a number of barriers that prevent more representation from minority communities. Many people don’t even know that they can nominate anyone for an honour. We need to ensure that we are getting that message out to harder-to-reach communities. 

Second, people from minority backgrounds often don’t believe these honours are meant for them. We have to make clear that the system is in place precisely so that all those who are deserving of an honour are recognised, no matter what their background.

Last, the process of nomination may seem daunting, but it needn’t. The Government sets out very clear guidelines, on how to nominate someone, at All you will need to do is fill out an online form, describing in no more than 500 words why your nominee is deserving of an award: it may be because of the amounts of money they have raised or the number of people they have helped. Remember, you must highlight the impact the nominee has had in their community — not just how nice they are. You also need two supporting letters of reference.

Now is the best time for us to boost the diversity in the honours system, so nominate someone today.

Harris Bokhari wins Diversity Leadership Award

Team Mosaic win big at GG2 Diversity Leadership Awards 2018!

Original article published on 25 October 2018 on Mosaic

Established as the premier awards for inclusion, diversity and leadership the GG2 Diversity Leadership Awards took place last night, celebrating its 20th anniversary, and saw two senior members of Mosaic walking away as winners.

The event held at the Park Plaza Westminister Bridge saw over 700 guests from an array of sectors come together. Those in attendance – from senior politicians, influential business leaders, and military personnel to those from the arts, film, TV and sport – together celebrated and recognised Britain’s most enterprising and talented BAME high achievers.

Amongst those recognised on the night were Mosaic’s very own Harris Bokhari OBE and Naheed Afzal.

Mosaic Advisory Board member Harris Bokhari OBE was awarded The Eastern Eye’s Editor’s Award 2018 for his remarkable work and continued contribution in helping young BME’s progress and grow through the work of The Patchwork Foundation, of which he is founder.

Taking home the Inspire Award, supported by the British Army on the night was Mosaic London Regional Leadership Group Member Naheed Afzal. Leveling the playing field for recruitment, Naheed was recognised for her work as co-founder of Contracts IT; leading many more women and ethnic minorities into traditionally male dominated professions. The award is presented to an individual for outstanding work in the community, which has served to inspire young people.

Senior Head of Mosaic and Community Integration, Nizam Uddin who attended the special evening said:

“We couldn’t be prouder of Harris and Naheed tonight. To have their continued support for Mosaic over all these years has been a real privilege and a cornerstone to our successes; they are truly deserved winners. We are in the business of creating a generation of new role models, and I can’t think of two better examples for our young people to look up to.

Many congratulations also to the GG2 Awards, and in particular the Solanki family, for their continued efforts over the decades to promote inclusion, diversity and leadership across all communities and all sectors.”

In total, 14 awards were presented on the night amongst which were: Imran Khan QC, who fought for justice in the murder of teenager Stephen Lawrence and currently involved in the Grenfell inquiry, Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitican Police, Neil Basu and Home Secretary The Rt Hon. Sajid Javid MP.

Mosaic Board Member Harris Bokhari OBE wins Diversity Champion of the Year

Original article published on 3 July 2018 on Mosaic

Harris Bokhari OBE

Yesterday saw the first ever National Democracy Awards held at the People’s History Museum in Manchester as part of marking the start of National Democracy Week.

Winners on the day included Mosaic Board Member Harris Bokhari OBE, who received the first Diversity Champion Award for his work as Founder of the Patchwork Foundation. The award is presented to an individual or organisation that has increased diversity in our democratic process and electoral systems, supporting others to have their say.

Since founding Patchwork, the not for profit organisation has gone on to help over 40,000 people from diverse communities engage in the democratic process through town hall events and master classes with senior political figures and voting campaigns. The Patchwork Foundation helps to engage under-represented, deprived and minority communities within British society through exposure and engagement into the political environment.

On his win Harris Bokhari said: “It was a real honour to be awarded the Diversity Champion Award as part of the inaugural National Democracy Week. It is vital that our democracy, politics and British institutions are diverse and reflect the society we live in. I am humbled to accept the award on behalf of all the Patchworkers, who inspire me each and every day, who have enriched my life and who are continuing to make our democracy inclusive for all.”te 

Harris Bokhari OBE

The awards ceremony has been held to mark the 90th anniversary of the 1928 Equal Franchise Act, which gave women equal voting rights and kicks off celebrations for National Democracy Week.

The awards recognise the exceptional work of individuals and organisations that work tirelessly to increase democratic engagement in the UK.

The Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, The Secretary of State for Transport and the elected Conservative MP for Epsom and Ewell said about the award: “Harris Bokhari does a fantastic job to encourage young people, particularly from less-engaged communities, to become involved in our democracy. This award is really well deserved.” The Rt Hon David Lidington CBE MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, added: “Colleagues from all political parties in Parliament admire the work of the Patchwork Foundation. Many congratulations to Harris on a much deserved award”.

Harris Bokhari OBE, named as Diversity Champion of the Year

Champions of our democracy’ announced at the National Democracy Week Awards

Winners of first ever National Democracy Week Awards announced

Original press release published on 2 July 2018

Today (Monday 2 July), winners of the first ever National Democracy Week Awards were announced at the People’s History Museum in Manchester.

The awards ceremony has been held to mark the 90th anniversary of the 1928 Equal Franchise Act, which gave women equal voting rights and kicks off celebrations for National Democracy Week.

The awards recognise the exceptional work of individuals and organisations that work tirelessly to increase democratic engagement in the UK.

Six winners were awarded titles for the following categories:

Harris Bokhari OBE, Patchwork Foundation – Diversity Champion of the Year:

  • This award is for an individual or organisation that has increased diversity in our democratic process and electoral systems, supporting others to have their say.
  • Harris founded the Patchwork Foundation, which has helped over 40,000 people from diverse communities engage in the democratic process through town-hall events and masterclasses with senior political figures and voting campaigns.

Minister for the Constitution, Chloe Smith said:

The first ever National Democracy Awards are the ideal opportunity to celebrate the champions of our democracy across the country who have displayed pioneering efforts to increase democratic engagement.

The winners of all four awards, and those who were shortlisted, should be proud of what they’ve achieved to improve understanding of our democracy for thousands of young people.

Harris Bokhari short listed for first ever National Democracy Week Awards

The democratic pioneers shortlisted for first ever National Democracy Week Awards

Today, the government is pleased to announce the names of the candidates who have been shortlisted to win one of the first ever National Democracy Week awards.

Original press release published on 28 June 2018

The National Democracy Week Awards will be held for the first time next Monday 2 July at the People’s Museum in Manchester, to kick off celebrations for National Democracy Week.

The awards recognise pioneering individuals and organisations who have demonstrated exceptional service in increasing democratic engagement in the UK. Nominees have been shortlisted across four national categories:

Young Advocate of the Year Award:

  • Staffordshire’s UK Youth Parliament Representatives for democratic services to young people in the region
  • Rachael Farrington from South London for democratic services in launching Voting Counts website
  • Matteo Bergami from Stanmore for founding, a platform to engage young people in the political process
  • Dan Lawes from Manchester for promoting youth voter registration

Diversity Champion of the Year Award:

  • Easton and Lawrence Hill Neighbourhood Management (Up Our Street) for helping give its diverse community a voice in politics
  • Harrow Mencap for helping to empower people with learning disabilities to engage with politicians and candidates
  • Harris Bokhari from Epsom for his drive to engage diverse communities in the political process
  • Sara Livadeas from Oxford for her campaign to help people in care homes vote

Changemaker of the Year Award:

  • Mehala Osborne from Bristol for her campaign to help domestic abuse survivors register to vote
  • 50:50 Parliament #AskHerToStand for their campaign to increase the number of female candidates for Parliament
  • My Life My Say for opening cafes nationwide where young people can engage in political discussion in a safe space
  • Harriet Andrews from Manchester for running digital surgeries to connect young people with their elected representatives

Collaboration of the Year Award:

  • The People’s History Museum in Manchester for working with communities to tell the story of the fight for LGBT+ rights
  • Situation Novoville in the West Midlands for using innovative online chat interfaces to engage the public in digital services
  • National Adult Learners’ Forum (Scotland) for promoting adult learning services in disadvantaged communities in Scotland.

National Democracy Week is being held in July to coincide with and celebrate the 90th anniversary of the 1928 Equal Franchise Act – a further historic constitutional milestone which granted equal voting rights to men and women.

Over the course of the week, a series of nationwide events are being held by charities and community groups across the country, aimed at inspiring people of all ages and backgrounds to participate in democracy.

Winners of the awards will be announced next Monday 2 July.

Further details on National Democracy Week can be found here.

Tales from the frontline: Harris Bokhari OBE

Harris Bokhari OBE knows the value of mentoring, having seen how his father inspired people from minority communities. As a national advisory board member of Mosaic, he is continuing a family tradition
Caption: Photography: Julian Anderson 

Original article published on 8 January 2018 in the Economia

There are too many young people in the UK that don’t have the same opportunity as many in their peer group. This could be because of their socio-economic background, the colour of their skin, or their sexuality. 

Mosaic was founded by his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales in 2007. It’s one of his key mentoring programmes now housed under the Prince’s Trust. With the help of our voluntary mentors, we aim to be the bridge between aspiration and attainment. We link young people with inspirational role models and try to boost their confidence and their long-term employability. 

Right now, there is nothing more important. I’m involved because of my late father. He was the first Asian Muslim head teacher in the UK and he had a great role in helping support a lot of minority communities that came to the UK. When my father was a head teacher in the early 1980s, there were still posters that would say “no dogs, no blacks, no Irish”. This was at a point when a lot of ethnic minority children’s fathers worked in low-level jobs. So when he got into a powerful position it really inspired them and enabled them to understand they could achieve anything. 

One of the many young people my father inspired is the now mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. He was very gracious, and in his winning speech he talked of how my father was a mentor and an inspiration because he showed him that despite the colour of his skin he could achieve anything. My father was involved in Mosaic and after he passed away it was one of the many charities he supported that I wanted to continue helping.  

One of the most difficult challenges is trying to improve our work and to reach out to more individuals. There is a growing need: unfortunately deprived communities are increasing and young people are facing more difficulties. There is always a case for us wanting to do more. 

In the charitable sector, the generous support we get from donors and volunteer mentors is fantastic. We wish we could expand our work and have a greater impact, but we need the resources 
to do be able to do that. 

The young people we work with face multiple challenges – some may become homeless during our mentoring, or face mental health issues, and there are the basic issues of not being able to afford a good meal during the day or even having the money to travel from one place to another. We always need to be aware of these issues and think ahead of each young person’s needs.

I’m an optimist by nature, and I think you have to be in the charitable sector. I always want to see the best for the young people we work for. I not only want to see each one be able to reach their potential but go beyond it. As a country, as an economy, and within the charity sector, I think we have no choice but to be positive in terms of the road ahead. I think we need to focus and understand that there will be challenges, but there will also be fantastic opportunities. 

The one thing that Brexit has done (that I’ve noticed in this particular sector) is that it has highlighted the divisions this country has always had. If that’s to do with relationships with deprived communities, or the lack of community integration in some areas of the country, at least we have become more aware of the reality of these challenges. The charity sector will have to step up. 
The internet and social media are extremely important to the lives of young people today, so charities are looking at clever ways of engaging with these communities that don’t necessarily require the same amount of resources as before.  

We’ve got some great innovators and some great thought leaders in the sector. The Prince’s Trust under the leadership of Dame Martina Milburn has already launched its e-mentoring programme online, an example of how charities are innovating and proving that we will take on challenges, maximise the opportunities and more importantly work towards ensuring our work is no longer required for future generations. 

In the business world we know disruptive technology is changing the way business is done globally. There is no doubt technology will always enhance the work of business and enhance the work of charities, but I think it is far off in terms of solving the problems.

You can find out more about the Mosaic Network here 

Harris Bokhari chairs US Embassy Dialogue on Youth, Diversity and the Future of Work

Harris Bokhari chaired Acting Ambassador – Lewis Lukens’s Wychwood House Dialogue on Youth, Diversity and the Future of Work with Youth Workers and Young Activists on Tuesday, April 11, 2017 at Wychwood House.

The networking breakfast and discussion of the challenges marginalized youth face in gaining access to employment and entrepreneurism was attended by over 30 participants including members from:

British Youth Council

One Big Community Founder

Elevation Networks

Code First Girls

Urban MBA

Reluctantly Brave

Cracked It

African Caribbean Diversity

Amos Bursary

Women of the Future