Zaiba Tahyya - Our Alumna of the Year 2023

  • Date

    Mon 31 Jul 23

Zaiba Tahyya Essex Alumna of the Year 2023 in front of the University library in her graduation robes

Our Alumna of the Year Zaiba Tahyya has been working to promote women’s rights in the UK and Bangladesh since graduating with her BA in Criminology in 2012.

Every year, since 2002, an Alum of the Year Award has been presented at the summer graduation ceremonies.

The award recognises Essex graduates who are relatively new to their careers and who are already making a significant impact.

Zaiba says her Essex education gave her “the knowledge and skills to empower women in the community.”

Coming back to Essex to receive her award was an amazing experience. She said: "Being named Alumna of the Year by a University which changed my life is such an honour. I am so proud to be back here."

She is now a specialist advocate in London for the Ashiana Network providing 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 provides a range of services benefiting vulnerable Black & minoritized women and girls. These include advice, advocacy, counselling, immigration advice and specialist refuge for women, in particular, those at risk of forced marriage and honour based violence, this includes women who have no recourse to public funds. 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 was the first and only woman from Bangladesh to receive a Queen’s Young Leaders award and was also recognised as a Global Shaper by the World Economic Forum for her work in women’s equality.

After receiving her award at one of our Graduation ceremonies, Zaiba offered some advice to new graduates: "Be fearless and remember there is no hard and fast way to live your life so be yourself!"