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Lifetime of helping others sees community stalwart honoured
Helping the underdog has played a key part in dedicated Shaukat Ahmed MBE’s lifetime work for others in Bradford.
He has been a prominent voluntary sector organiser in the Bradford district ever since he moved to the city from his native Bangladesh in December 1974, initially to study Electronic Engineering at the University of Leeds.
Fast forward almost 50 years and he has been awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of the University of Bradford ‘In recognition of his significant commitment to the community of Bradford and the University.’
Over the decades, Mr. Ahmed, 68, has helped to improve the lives of others, by promoting better educational opportunities, enterprise development and better housing for the most deprived communities of Bradford.
After seeing first-hand the overcrowding in the homes of families of Bangladeshi heritage in Manningham during the 1980s, Mr Ahmed became the founding Chair of Manningham Housing Association, a role he held between 1987 and 1998. He was also one of the founding members of the Bangladeshi Youth Organisation in Bradford for 13 years from 1982.
He said: “I noticed Bangladeshis living in overcrowded houses in Bradford. Seven or eight people living in a three-bedroom house. There was no place to study in the house.
“I thought that we needed to find better housing for these people. We needed to build larger family houses as there were two or three generations of the same family living together. That’s how the Manningham Housing Association came about.”
He remembers speaking to Bangladeshi parents in Manningham during the 1980s, encouraging them to break from the usual tradition of their children getting jobs in workplaces such as restaurants when they turned 16 and instead entering higher education. He would later earn the nickname of Mr Manningham.
‘People are all equal’
He was involved in the city’s fight against the National Front (NF) during the 1970s, which he describes as a ‘really bad time’.
In 1976, Mr. Ahmed took part in a counter demonstration protesting against NF members who were marching through Manningham, a neighbourhood with a large population of residents of Bangladeshi and Pakistani heritage.
He added: “I have spent a lot of time doing anti-racism work. That’s been a big thing in my life. A minority sees things that a majority can’t see. People are all equal. They should all be equal.
“My parents were my source for helping others. I always had a sense of fighting for the underdog, the weak one.”
Mr Ahmed went on to work for Leeds City Council as a Senior Project Manager and was also a Labour councillor for Bradford’s University ward between 1991 and 1999.
He has also forged decades-long links with the University of Bradford. He worked in its department of electronics and engineering on a one-year research scholarship in 1982/83. This role saw him based in Oxenhope, a village near Keighley, researching how snowflakes can disrupt mobile phone signals and how to combat the problem, while the form of technology was in its infancy. He was also LEA member of Bradford University Council.
Speaking on the honorary doctorate, he said: “It means a lot to me. Within my family, there have been six people who have graduated from the University of Bradford. I am closely connected to the University of Bradford.
“It’s a great feeling for me personally. I see Bradford as my home city. I came here in 1974 and I’m still here.
“I’ve always gone into things full-hearted. I wanted to do things and to think outside the box.”
Mr Ahmed was awarded an MBE in 2008 in recognition of his community and voluntary development work in Bradford, in what he modestly describes as a surprising milestone for him.
‘Never give up’
Since his retirement in 2020, Mr Ahmed has become even more involved in voluntary work. He promotes understanding and co-operation between people of various cultural heritages and faith groups, through music, songs, and poetry.
He has been married to Syeda Shanaz Ahmed for 41 years and is a father of two and a grandfather of four.
Asked what advice he had for graduates, he said: “As you progress through life, things don’t get better and better all of the time. You will trip some of the time. You need to dust yourself off, re-plan and continue. Everyone has had to do that. Never give up.”