Britain’s first Asian woman to become a lord mayor has been inaugurated.
Mother-of-two Manjula Sood, 60, became the first citizen of Leicester in a ground-breaking ceremony at the town hall. It was the first time in its 799-year history a woman from Asia has taken on the ceremonial post.
According to council officials and reports in the Asian media, it will set a precedent nationwide.
The former teacher said: "To be the first in Leicester is a great honour, but to be the first in Britain is a really great achievement. Leicester is my home. I have lived here for 38 years. It’s a great honour and privilege for me to be mayor of a city with such a beautiful diversity."
It will represent a remarkable achievement for a woman who has seen her city transform since her arrival in 1970.
Among the first migrants to Leicester from the Indian sub-continent in the 1970s, she moved from a 25-room house in the Punjab district of Ludhiana to a small flat on an inner-city estate with late husband Paul. Since then, the East Midlands city has become increasingly diverse.
Mrs Sood said: "In 1970, I didn’t want to live here. We moved to an old Victorian flat in Highfields, on the top floor. There were no carpets and no heating and it was snowing. I told my husband 'I’m not staying here’. But my grandad told me to make the most of it. He said 'definitely not – I have given you an education, now Leicester is your home and Britain is your country’ Now I am glad I stayed."
Mrs Sood hopes to use her year in office to encourage more women from ethnic minorities to take on public roles.
Mrs Sood’s inauguration comes in the week Deputy Minister for Women and Equality Barbara Follett spoke of a lack of women from ethnic minority backgrounds playing an active role in civic and civil life.
At present, only 29.3 per cent of councillors in England are women and only 3.1 per cent of them, about 168, are from ethnic minority backgrounds.