A mother of three, Chairman for Mosaic Yorkshire, a business woman and a solicitor with a conscience. Sarah Khan Bashir moved to Bradford 25 years ago and has never looked back. Recently awarded with a MBE she hates sitting idle. Apart from working hard to beat clan politics, she enjoys going for a stroll in Bradford’s historic cemetery in Undercliffe. We caught up with the lady herself over a hot sunny afternoon for a bit of ghap shap!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am originally from Sheffield but moved to Bradford and made it my home 25 years ago. Previously I had worked for West Yorkshire Fire Service, I looked after their legal side for the Chief Constable, but then chose to go self employed because of my girls. Today, I have my own legal practice, Shire Solicitors, have three beautiful children, am Chair for Mosaic Yorkshire region, I sit on a few boards and my latest is that I am a proud owner of a coffee shop called Atticus in Shipley.
What has been the most challenging part of your career?
Setting up my own business I think has been the most challenging. I originally did a chemistry degree but could not find anything that matched my qualifications, so my husband encouraged me to do a CPS and qualify as a lawyer. I am the type of person who hates wasting time, so I did the course (amongst several other courses) and qualified. When I first set about looking for work, the biraderi system in Bradford made it difficult to get work. There is this thing within the biraderi system, that if you’re not part of them, they don’t want you to succeed. Other issues were with men not taking you seriously. I strongly believe that women have a place in business as much as men do. So to work around these challenges I felt it was important for my firm to mirror what is happening in the community, therefore I set up resources accordingly. So for example if a man wants to deal with a man, then I make that available, because I feel I alone can’t break perceptions.
You have been awarded an MBE recently. How do you feel about that?
I am completely overwhelmed but extremely humbled and grateful. I feel the biggest thing really is that Mosaic has been highlighted and others I believe will follow to do more for the community. There are so many people giving up time to help with Mosaic.
Tell us a little more about Mosaic and your involvement
I started with Mosaic in 2007. All I did was volunteer. I remember being at Tesco and got a phone call from Mosaic Manager, she said she needed an inspirational female member to speak at an assembly. Being self employed made it easy for me to move my dates around and do it and it is something I really enjoy doing even till this date. I feel I really connect with the school children. I am happy sharing my journey in a language they understand ‘my dad wanted me to be a doc’ I often tell them with an Asian accent and it really hits home with them. I help them understand how you can balance pleasing the family and getting to do what you want. I feel it’s also important to share all my failures, which inevitably with hard work lead to successes. This really connects with the kids and if I can shape a future for even one of them by telling them my story then I feel it’s a job worth doing. And that’s basically how it started off for me with Mosaic.
The other aspect of Mosaic that I like is the citizenship aspect. I feel it is very important that people start seeing Britain as home. I feel that children are not allowed to say they belong to Britain and this is important because only then will you be able to give more. I remember my girls got a lot of slack when they were at school, because my husband Nadeem was in the army and went to Afghanistan. Thank goodness things have changed and got better.
Apart from work work and more work, Sarah do you have any free time for hobbies?
I love being with my family. I love seeing the children growing up. I tend to do a lot of walking and enjoy sports such as Tennis and Golf. To be honest I just enjoy being with my family the most, including my mum and sister.
Well Sarah you’ve already so much on your plate, so how did the coffee shop happen?
Well, I took it on thinking I would just sit there and serve coffee and cake and sit and chat with people. But it is another challenge altogether. Lot’s of learning about how to cook and prepare.
I remember the day I purchased the coffee shop. I left my husband in the car, whilst I went into Whiterose to do some shopping, whilst shopping I got the call from the agent saying my purchase was successful. As I came back in the car I told him I bought a coffee shop. The moment was priceless.
Describe one of your favourite places in Bradford.
For me the most intriguing place in Bradford has to be Undercliffe Cemetery. The architecture and the mausoleum’s are amazing. There is so much history and character there it is unbelievable. The place is high on a hill so the setting is amazing.
You have done a lot of work within schools Sarah, in particular with Carlton Bolling College. There are reports of teachings of Islamic extremism in schools, which the government and media have labelled Trojan Horse, what are your views on this Trojan Horse issue?
I am surprised, because I only saw some extremely delightful children who wanted some outside support. There are some amazing children and I think these scandals are forgetting that they are just children at the end of the day, looking for a bright future. These scandals are affecting kids. Can you just imagine being a child and hearing all this? Before such allegations are made they need to show hard evidence if such things are happening. It is really unfair on the kids and staff. You can see enthusiasm in teaching staff to make them help their kids do well. They need more support. More businesses need to go into schools and share their successes and show them it’s not just about being a doctor or a solicitor. Let’s sponsor them and support them!