University honours duo for contribution to equality

University honours duo for contribution to equality

Two people who have dedicated their lives to equality, community relations and tackling discrimination are being honoured this month (Nov) by Sheffield Hallam University.

Novlette Rennie, Chief Executive of Sporting Equals Ltd, and community leader Sarwar Khan Awan will both receive honorary doctorates from the University’s Chancellor, Professor Robert Winston, at separate ceremonies over the next two weeks.

Novlette Rennie will receive her award in recognition of her outstanding contribution to equality in sport on 22 Nov. As head of Sporting Equals Ltd, Birmingham-born Novlette is currently the only black female Chief Executive in sport. She is dedicated to promoting racial equality in sport and providing people from minority ethnic groups with better opportunities to participate, volunteer and work within the sector.

Novlette, who was awarded an OBE in the 2007 New Year Honours, says: “It’s such a great honour, and quite overwhelming, to receive this doctorate, especially coming in the same year as being awarded an OBE.

“It’s been a struggle at times for me, as a black woman, to make an impression in sport and it has often been quite a lonely experience with no other role models to lean on. So I like to see this honorary doctorate as recognition of the commitment and passion I have brought to my work, and I hope other people will see that there are opportunities there if you work hard enough.”

Novlette has worked with all the major sporting organisations in Britain to help drive equality issues up the sporting agenda. The Racial Equality Charter for Sport – a public pledge to pursue an agenda of racial equality – was the first of its kind in the world.

The pioneering nature of this work was recently recognised with a £2 million award to its Sport for Communities project, which will allow Sporting Equals to promote involvement and equality at grassroots level for the first time.

Sarwar Khan Awan, 74, will receive his doctorate on 12 Nov in recognition of his outstanding contribution to community relations in Sheffield.

Soon after arriving in the city from Pakistan 50 years ago, Sarwar established a mosque for local Muslims who had been without a place of worship and led a groundbreaking campaign against discrimination in the Sheffield transport department.

He went on to become chair of the Sheffield Ethnic Minority Liaison Panel and has provided long-term ethnic minority liaison services to local organisations including the City Council, hospitals, the court service and the Police. He also makes himself available to any individual needing advice at any time of day.

Sarwar says: “I am delighted and very proud to be receiving this award, although I don’t really think I’ve done anything that special. I think if you can help people you have a duty to do so.”

The honorary title of Doctor of the University is awarded to people who have achieved distinction in the fields of learning, the arts, public life and community service, or have made a distinctive contribution to Sheffield Hallam, the city or region. Sheffield Hallam has been awarding Honorary Doctorates since gaining university status in 1992; it has been awarding Honorary Fellowships, based on similar criteria, since 1969.

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