What started as a modest initiative has, I am proud to say, flourished into an organization that has had a positive impact on the lives of so many people and communities right across South Asia. This, of course, has been entirely due, Ladies and Gentlemen, to your continuing generosity and support.  

Your Excellencies, Secretaries of State, Ladies and Gentlemen,

My mehbooba (darling in Urdu) and I could not be more delighted to be with you this evening to celebrate the outstanding work of the British Asian Trust.

And I’m enormously grateful and touched but what Manoj has just said rather undeservedly about my role.

I can only say that, as each year passes, it raises my spirits to see the growing impact of the Trust, which I founded a little over ten years ago, although it seems a great deal longer than that I can assure you, together with leading figures from the British Asian diaspora.  What started as a modest initiative has, I am proud to say, flourished into an organization that has had a positive impact on the lives of so many people and communities right across South Asia. This, of course, has been entirely due, Ladies and Gentlemen, to your continuing generosity and support.  

Now I need hardly say how equally proud I am that the British Asian Trust's recent achievements include establishing a programme in Bangladesh to deliver humanitarian support to Rohingya refugees and a ground-breaking mental health programme in Pakistan.  This adds, of course, to the remarkable work which continues in India, the highlights of which include working with women artisans and farmers to ensure that they are able to access markets, and launching a Child Labour-Free Campaign in Jaipur where thousands of children are still being exploited.  These notable achievements have helped to expand the reach and benefit of the Trust to more communities across the region and I can only hope this forward momentum will continue.  

Another remarkable achievement this year relates to the pioneering steps the Trust has taken into the world of social finance, as Manoj just mentioned. and Having secured funding commitments of $11million, in September 2018, at the United Nations, the British Asian Trust and its partners - a number of whom I think are with us this evening - launched one of the world's largest Development Impact Bonds focused on education.  And over the next four years, this Development Impact Bond aims to support the improvement in quality education for 300,000 children in Gujarat and Delhi.
And I saw a little bit of this two November’s ago when I was in Delhi.


Now I would especially like to acknowledge the Department for International Development for supporting this initiative and for providing more support to the Trust to develop further social finance initiatives across South Asia.  It is, if I may say so, a great delight that the Secretary of State for International Development, the Right Honourable Penny Mordaunt M.P., is here this evening and I very much hope that partnership with D.F.I.D. continues to grow, particularly in the area of social finance.

Together with exceptional partners, the British Asian Trust is working innovatively to improve the quality of education in India while also serving as a global example on how to make social finance work in the service of people and our planet.  Recognising the enormously important role the private sector can play in bringing about positive change in society, I am particularly pleased to announce that next month BT and the British Asian Trust will be launching a £3 million Corporate Social Responsibility partnership in India that aims to empower girls through digital technology and education.    

As we look to the future, I believe that the Trust is in a stronger and more ambitious place than ever before.  It is widely accepted that the Sustainable Development Goals, endorsed by 193 member states at the United Nations, cannot be achieved unless radical new approaches are developed and so I am very proud that the British Asian Trust is at the forefront of developing such innovations.  It is above all this pioneering spirit and entrepreneurial approach that is so typical of the South Asian community which has been central to the British Asian Trust since the day it was founded.  

This is why ladies and gentlemen  I am so pleased to be able to announce the British Asian Trust's most ambitious venture to date - the launch of a $100 million Outcomes Fund that will focus on women and girls across South Asia.  The British Asian Trust, with its partners, aims to convene these funds over the next five years in order to create a range of new social finance products.  

Now needless to say, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Trust cannot do this on its own.  We are only as good as the people who work with us.  So I am delighted that our new programme in Bangladesh will be overseen and supported by Shayan Rahman, the Chair of our Bangladesh Advisory Council - and I would also like to thank Nisha Jagatiani for joining as the Chair of our new G.C.C. Advisory Council. Ladies and gentlemen I am profoundly grateful to all of you for the tremendous generosity of the Diaspora community here in the United Kingdom. The sheer scale of the difference your support makes is something I have seen at first-hand during my travels in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and something I look forward to seeing in Bangladesh.  I have long been inspired by South Asia as a region of determined, hardworking people and abundant opportunity.  

And looking more globally, the most complex challenges of our time are borderless and increasingly existential.  I am convinced of the value of looking more and more to South Asia to build partnerships and find solutions, whether on tackling the hugely urgent challenge of climate change, the sustainability of our communities - particularly in terms of dealing with rapid urbanization - or advancing bold new innovations for a better world.  

So ladies and gentlemen, your help in all this is crucial and I look forward to seeing what the year ahead brings us as we continue to work together collectively to raise our level of ambition.  When we started the British Asian Trust I could never have imagined for a moment that it would come so far.  I must say that much thanks for this is owed to the leadership of Richard Hawkes over the last few years.  The Trust's success, as an independent charity charting its own bold course, is a great tribute not only to your continued involvement, Ladies and Gentlemen, but also to the enthusiasm and dedication of Manoj Badale and Hitan Mehta - neither of whom have a single sign of a grey hair between them! (But just look at the toll it has taken on me!).  Whatever the case, ladies and gentlemen I really am enormously grateful for your constant support and the fact that so many of you keep coming back again year after year, you are without a doubt gluttons for punishment and I thank you.