Zerbanoo Gifford

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Mrs Zerbanoo Gifford

Zerbanoo Gifford (born India on 11 May 1950) is a Human Rights campaigner, author, and founding director of the ASHA Foundation. Zerbanoo is married to the international human rights lawyer Richard Gifford and lives in England. They have two sons, Mark Mazda and Alexander Justice.

"I pay particular tribute to one, Zerbanoo Gifford, a tireless campaigner for justice and human rights and a passionate advocate for democracy and women's empowerment. She is the founder of the Asha Centre in the Forest of Dean. "Asha" means "hope". It is a place of many faiths and cultures, a haven of peace and beauty where people, especially young people, from Britain, the European Union and the rest of the world come together to learn about conflict resolution. Arab and Jewish Israeli young people spend time with each other then go home united rather than divided. It promotes volunteering. The centre fosters community participation through a programme of projects, arts and working on the land encouraging young people to celebrate their similarities, not their differences. Young people, united by the strength of their common endeavour, work together for a better future in which we celebrate our differences as well as our similarities." Baroness Royall of Blaisdon 24 May 2012 [1]

Early life[edit]

Zerbanoo was born in India, the eldest daughter of Bailey Irani, the founder President of the World Zoroastrians Organisation,[2] and Kitty Mazda, who studied child development with the educationalist, Madame Montessori. She was brought up in London, where her parents ran a hotel, and attended Roedean School, near Brighton.

Zerbanoo’s charity work began when she was six years old. After seeing children in need in the Indian city of Pune, Zerbanoo returned to London, made flags and sold them to passers-by for a penny each; she raised ten pounds, which she sent to the then Indian Prime Minister Pandit Nehru. The Prime Minister sent Zerbanoo a thank you letter stating that if all little girls in London were like her, there would be fewer poor children in Poona (Pune).Years later, Zerbanoo would be honoured with the Nehru Centenary Award for her work championing the rights of women, children and minorities internationally.


Zerbanoo made political history in 1982 when she was elected in Harrow, Middlesex, as the first non-white woman councillor for the Liberal Party. She went on to become the first Asian woman to stand for parliament (Hertsmere[3] 1983 against Cecil Parkinson, gaining 13,758 votes (25.5%) the highest recorded vote of a non-white at the time and doubling the result from the previous election) despite facing racism and threats from the British National Party. Her experience was the catalyst for the national press, politicians and the police to look at the whole issue of racial violence in Britain. Not being elected to parliament didn't mean the end of her involvement in politics. She was elected to the Federal Executive of the Liberal Party, the first non-white to be elected to a governing body of a major UK Political Party. Zerbanoo is seen as a pioneer for the Asian community in national politics. She chaired the commission ‘Looking into Ethnic Minority Involvement in British Life’ and was a member of the advisory group on race relations to the then British Home Secretary, Jack Straw. Speaking in Trafalgar Square with Neil Kinnock in the early 80s, calling for Mandatory Sanctions and the release of Nelson Mandela. She was chosen to present a petition to Number 10 Downing St with Bishop Trevor Huddleston.

ASHA Foundation[edit]

Zerbanoo is the Founding Director of the ASHA Foundation, a charity which encourages and supports philanthropy worldwide and works for interfaith and intercultural understanding. The core of the Foundation’s work is the ASHA Centre[4][5] in the Forest of Dean, west Gloucestershire, England, which promotes peace and understanding amongst diverse groups especially the young. The Centre fosters community participation through a holistic programme of performing and visual arts, conservation projects, sustainable living and personal transformation. In an example of its pioneering work, groups of Arab and Jewish Israeli young people spend a month at the Centre and having overcome their initial hostility, work together to create a play which they then take home and perform in Israel, uniting audiences from their deeply divided communities. The experiment has now been expanded to include young people from South Africa, India, Britain and other divided communities worldwide.

Inspirational women[edit]

Zerbanoo’s book, Confessions to a Serial Womaniser- Secrets of the World’s Inspirational Women[6] highlights the achievements of three hundred women from sixty countries, all of whom Zerbanoo interviewed. The women have succeeded in all walks of life, including business, government, the arts, science, academia and religion. To accompany the book, Zerbanoo has also launched a website and international mentoring project. The website contains biographies and photographs of the “Inspirational Women” in her book, she is continually expanding the listing. Many of the women in the book are involved in the web project, acting as mentors, and as everything is done on-line, distance is no object. Zerbanoo has already successfully matched up young women from all over the world with their chosen mentors. She’s now developing the mentoring project into a multi-media resource for schools and universities.

Charitable work[edit]

The patron of several international charities, Zerbanoo founded the ASHA Foundation and Centre[7] and also helped set up the Charities Aid Foundation in India. She has been the Director of Anti-Slavery International and London Organiser for the homeless charity Shelter. She also set up the first Shelter shops in London when she was still a teenager.

  • Founder of the ASHA Foundation
  • Director of Anti-Slavery International
  • Director of Charities Aid Foundation (India)
  • London organiser for Shelter
  • Patron of United Nations Year of Peace
  • Patron of Asian Friends of the RSPCA
  • Patron of United Religions Initiative
  • Patron of Minorities of Europe
  • Patron of Mummy’s House for Mumbai Street Children
  • Advisory Board member of Public Concern at Work
  • Friend of the Day Care Trust
  • Council Member of the Voluntary Arts Network
  • Board Member of the Independent Broadcasting Trust
  • Co-founder of Warwick University Centre for Research into Asian Migration
  • Co-chair of the Dadabhai Naoroji centenary celebrations
  • Vice-chair of the Community Sector of the Prince’s Youth Business Trust
  • President of the Harrow Zoroastrian Association


Zerbanoo Gifford attending the launch party for her book The Golden Thread

Zerbanoo has been editor of the women’s magazine, Libas International received a nomination to Editor of the Year, and written widely on historical, social and political themes, with all proceeds of her books going to nominated charities. Her written works include:

  • The Golden Thread,[8] Asian experiences of post-Raj Britain – pioneering work drawing attention to the achievements of over one hundred British Asian women
  • The Asian Presence in Europe[9] – used in schools as a book on Asians who have helped to transform the way we live in Europe
  • Dadabhai Naoroji, Britain's First Asian MP[10] – to complement the Dadabhai Naoroji Centenary celebrations in 1992, which Zerbanoo co-chaired
  • Thomas Clarkson and the Campaign Against the Slave trade[11] –used in events marking the bi-centenary in 2007 of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade in the British Empire
  • Foreword to Race and British Electoral Politics[12]
  • South Asian Funding in the UK[13] – written to be used by the charitable sector
  • Celebrating India – widely used in schools on 50th anniversary of Indian independence and to complement a Channel Four schools programme
  • Confessions to a Serial Womaniser: Secrets of the World’s Inspirational Women – featuring interviews with 300 exceptional women from sixty countries. The book, website and international mentoring project are the result of Zerbanoo’s being awarded a NESTA (National Endowment of Science, Technology and Arts) Fellowship. The website mentoring project is now being developed into a multi-media resource for schools and universities.
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica - An article written on Child Slavery
  • Power and Privilege - By Mini Sala - Forward written by

Publications you can find Zerbanoo in[edit]

  • An Uncensored Life ,[14] An Uncensored Life is a compelling biography of a human rights campaigner, philanthropist, womens champion, author and founder of the ASHA Centre
  • Debrett's,[15]
  • The World's Who's Who of Women
  • Men and Women of Distinction
  • Eminent Parsis - 1964 – 2005[16]
  • Zoroastrians in Britain[17]
  • ASHAVANS Profile of 101 Eminent Zoroastrians
  • The Electoral System in Britain[18]
  • Them - Voices from the immigrant community in contemporary briton[19]
  • What's it all about? The Autobiography of Michael Caine[20]
  • European Christianity and the Atlantic Slave Trade: A Black Hermeneutical Study[21]
  • The Return of a Native Reporter[22]
  • Companion to Contemporary Black British Culture [23]
  • BBC History May 2010 Vol11 no5
  • Abundant Living Restless Striving[24]
  • A Global Guide to Interfaith[25]
  • Women with X Appeal[26]


Zerbanoo has received many international accolades for her work, including:

  • Freedom of the city of Lincoln, Nebraska, in recognition of her work against modern forms of slavery
  • Asian Times Award, for achievement and service
  • Asian City Club Award, for services to the media
  • Nehru Centenary Award for championing the rights of women, children and minorities internationally
  • International Woman of the Year 2006, awarded by Zee TV
  • Splendor Award for human rights achievement on 60th anniversary of Indian independence
  • American Suffrage Exhibition - for championing the rights of women, children and minorities internationally


  1. ^ "Minority Ethnic and Religious Communities: Cultural and Economic Contribution". Hansard.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  2. ^ Hinnells, John R. (2005). The Zoroastrian diaspora : religion and migration ; the Ratanbai Katrak lectures, the Oriental Faculty, Oxford 1985 (1. publ. ed.). Oxford [u.a.]: Oxford Univ. Press. p. 605. ISBN 0198267592. 
  3. ^ "Election Demon". 
  4. ^ "Speech by Baroness Royall of Blaisdon". House of Lords. 
  5. ^ "Red Hot Curry". 
  6. ^ Gifford, Zerbanoo (2007). Confessions to a serial womaniser : secrets of the world's inspirational women. East Grinstead: Blacker Limited in conjunction with Phact Publishing. ISBN 1897739311. 
  7. ^ "New Era Network". 
  8. ^ Gifford, Zerbanoo (1990). The golden thread : Asian experiences of post-Raj Britain. London: Pandora Press. ISBN 978-0044406051. 
  9. ^ Gifford, Zerbanoo (1995). Asian presence in Europe. London: Mantra. ISBN 978-1852691851. 
  10. ^ Röhr-Rouendaal, written by Zerbanoo Gifford ; illustrated by Petra (1992). Dadabhai Naoroji : Britain's first Asian M.P. London: Mantra. ISBN 978-1852691417. 
  11. ^ Gifford, Zerbanoo (1996). Thomas Clarkson and the campaign against slavery. London: Anti-Slavery International. ISBN 978-0900918360. 
  12. ^ Saggar, ed. by Shamit (1998). Race and British electoral politics (1. publ. ed.). London [u.a.]: UCL Press. pp. vii. ISBN 978-1857288308. 
  13. ^ Gifford, Karina Holly with Zerbanoo (1999). South Asian funding in the UK. London: Directory of Social Change. ISBN 978-1900360333. 
  14. ^ Master, Farida. Zerbanoo Gifford: An Uncensored Life. London: Harper Collins. ISBN 978-9351776369. 
  15. ^ "Debretts". 
  16. ^ Dastur, edited by B.T. (2006). Eminent Parsis. [Mumbai]: B.T. Dastur. ISBN 9788175257139. 
  17. ^ Hinnells, John R. (1996). Zoroastrians in Britain : the Ratanbai Katrak lectures, University of Oxford 1985. Oxford [u.a.]: Clarendon Press. ISBN 978-0-19-826193-3. 
  18. ^ Blackburn, Robert , (1995). The electoral system in Britain. (1. publ. ed.). New York: St. Martin's. ISBN 9780333629185. 
  19. ^ Green, [compiled by] Jonathon (1990). Them : voices from the immigrant community in contemporary Britain (1. publ. ed.). London: Secker & Warburg. ISBN 0436200058. 
  20. ^ Caine, Michael (1993). What's it all about. London: Arrow. ISBN 0099218518. 
  21. ^ Milwood, Robinson A. (2007). European Christianity and the Atlantic slave trade : a black hermeneutical study. Bloomington: AuthorHouse. ISBN 978-1425994396. 
  22. ^ Chesshyre, Robert (1987). The return of a native reporter. London: Viking. ISBN 0670817341. 
  23. ^ Donnell, ed. by Alison (2002). Companion to Contemporary black British culture (1. publ. ed.). London [u.a.]: Routledge. pp. 124–5. ISBN 0415169895. 
  24. ^ Karanjia, Sohrab P. Godrej as recounted to B.K. (2001). Abundant living, restless striving : a memoir. New Delhi: Viking. pp. xiii–xvi. ISBN 0670912050. 
  25. ^ Bharat, Sandy; Bharat, Jael (2007). A global guide to interfaith : reflections from around the world. Winchester: O books. p. 318. ISBN 9781905047970. 
  26. ^ Abdela, Lesley (1989). Women with X appeal : women politicians in Britain today. London: Macdonald Optima. pp. 143–49,170. ISBN 0356171841. 

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