Every year, since 2002, an Alumnus of the Year Award has been presented at the summer graduation ceremonies. This is our chance to celebrate Essex graduates who are already making a significant impact in their chosen career.

The past decade has seen Zaiba Tahyya making an important difference through her work to promote women’s rights in the UK and Bangladesh. She graduated with her BA in Criminology in 2012 and says her Essex education gave her “the knowledge and skills to empower women in the community.”

As a specialist advocate in London for the Ashiana Network she now provides advice, advocacy, casework and support to migrant and refugee women and girls who have no recourse to public funds and have experienced violence against them.

Ashiana Network is a highly-valued charity which provides a range of services benefiting vulnerable black and minoritized women and girls. That can include advice, advocacy, counselling and immigration advice to a specialist refuge for women. In particular, Ashiana seeks to help those at risk of forced marriage and honour based violence. Ashiana also delivers a range of community-based activities, prevention work and training for professionals.

Before her role at the Ashiana Network, Zaiba co-founded the Female Empowerment Movement (FEM) in Bangladesh, a non-profit organisation which aims to empower women through training for skill development and by taking care of their health. FEM was inspired by Zaiba’s internship at the Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust. Projects delivered by FEM in Bangladesh included an anti-harassment advertising campaign on buses, a self-defence project for women, and a partnership to teach women how to ride bicycles, to increase their independence.

Zaiba’s ground-breaking work led to her becoming the first and only woman from Bangladesh to receive a Queen’s Young Leaders award and she was also recognised as a Global Shaper by the World Economic Forum for her work on women’s equality.

We hope our graduates here today will be inspired by Zaiba’s example. You are now part of a community of more than 125,000 change makers which stretches across the world, and just like Zaiba – we hope you will use everything you have learnt here at Essex to make the world a better place.

Read Zaiba's response.