British Asian Trust – always backing women and girls #BetterforBalance

Girl with certificate, India

Abha Thorat-Shah reflects on the role and recognition of women in leadership and her passion for gender equality

As part of UK India Week 2019 and with grateful thanks to India inc. I am thrilled to have been included in this year’s 100 Most Influential in UK-India Relations; an exclusive list of key influencers that enrich and help strengthen the UK-India relationship. This year’s list brings gender diversity truly into focus with, for the first time, an all-women’s list. This is a fantastic accolade (and I speak on behalf of all the amazing women in leadership roles), which goes far in recognising the contribution of so many women from all walks of life who are driving a future relationship between the UK and India. 

I speak from the context and privilege of working as one of the leadership team at the British Asian Trust. Such recognition usually comes with increased responsibility to deliver change, do more and think bigger.

A focus on women and girls has been at the core of our work at the British Asian Trust since its inception and this area of work is my absolute passion.

Women account for 77% of our staff numbers and 66% of our governance roles are held by women with prominent roles and notable achievements in public life.  A fantastic 48% of our on ground partners across South Asia are led by women including the hugely visionary Chetna Vijay Sinha - Founder and President of Mann Deshi Foundation in India, Safeena Husain - Founder and Executive Director at Educate Girls, dedicated to improving opportunities and the quality of education for girls in India. And, in Pakistan, CEO Dr. Sara Saeed Khurram who co-founded Sehat Kahani - a progressive all-female health provider using innovative approaches to deliver health to communities in Pakistan.

This focus is now growing and to tackle the social and economic barriers that face women and girls, we are becoming more ambitious and developing innovative approaches that include new forms of financing, technology and mass media programmes. To this end, the British Asian Trust has recently announced a $100 million Outcomes Fund to galvanise funding to bridge the gap in achieving the SDGs, and fund scalable solutions to support over 2,000,000 women and girls across South Asia.  

I look forward to a future where we no longer have to discuss barriers that hold women back and where all women have the opportunity to be leaders and create meaningful change for good.  

Abha Thorat-Shah, Executive Director (Social Finance), British Asian Trust 


Abha has extensive experience of creating and nurturing philanthropic, business and cultural relationships between the UK and South Asia and practical experience of both the private and not-for-profit sectors. Before coming to the British Asian Trust, Abha was the Chief Operating Officer of the UK India Business Council after 5 years in the Reinsurance markets in London. She grew up in Mumbai, India and graduated with a BA in Political Science from St. Xavier’s College, the University of Mumbai and a BA Hons in Social and Political Sciences from Cambridge University.