a Bollywood actress, a high-flying lawyer and is now bidding to
be the first Asian MEP for Scotland.
But Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, who is also a mother of four, laughs
off the idea that she has been put on Earth to make other
females feel inadequate.
She’s far too busy with her latest venture – organising the
first-ever Scottish Asian Women’s Awards – to be bothered with
the idea that she’s some kind of superwoman.
She said: “I’m just a woman doing what every woman does all the
time – we look after our families, earn money and balance our
lives. We don’t spend a lot of time talking about it because
we’re just getting on with it. It’s normal. I’ve met lots of
women who are doing amazing things without any recognition – and
they are contributing to the improvement of Scotland.”
Tasmina, who set up the Scottish Asian Women’s Association last
year, has found top-level support for the inaugural awards and
it’s already pencilled in as an annual event.
The judging panel includes Deputy First Minister Nicola
Sturgeon, Labour leader Johann Lamont, Lib Dem leader Willie
Rennie as well as actress Elaine C Smith. And a glamorous night
is planned at Glasgow Science Centre on Thursday.
Tasmina, 42, from Glasgow, said: “Asian women have watched their
male counterparts attend these kind of events for years. The
women might have been supporting and helping the men but they
weren’t getting any recognition or encouragement.
“But it’s not just about being businesswomen or entrepreneurs.
Asian women don’t talk about things like breast cancer – it’s
private for them.
“We have nominees who have been through breast cancer and have
been open with their communities about it, helping others by
talking about it. That’s wonderful.”
Solicitor Tasmina’s own fight for equality in every aspect of
her life means she understands the issues many Asian women face.
She remembers the name-calling she endured as a mixed-race child
at primary school in Edinburgh in the 70s and 80s.
Then, as a newly wed, she struggled to fit into her husband
Zulfikar’s traditional Asian family.
When she knew it was time to have kids of her own, she was
determined to continue studying for her law degree and gave
birth to her son two days after her graduation ceremony.
She said: “When Zulfikar and I got married, we did the
traditional thing and moved in with his family in Glasgow.
“But we were living with his mum and dad and his five brothers
and sisters – that just didn’t work for me.
“It was very hard for him to leave his family and come with me.
I didn’t want to be the half-white woman who took him away from
his traditional home.
“But we made it clear there was no disrespect involved. We just
had to do our own thing, pursue our own lives.
“We went out to Pakistan for a while and that’s when I got
involved in acting. I got the lead in a drama series on
Pakistani national TV but I couldn’t even speak Urdu. I had to
become fluent in two months.”
A Bollywood film and some modelling work followed. Tasmina
remains a poster girl in India and Pakistan and is recognised by
fans in the most unlikely of locations.
She said: “I was on holiday with the family and was at Universal
Studios in Florida, standing in a queue with no make-up on, my
hair scraped back from my face, wearing a pair of shorts and a
“Someone came up to me and said, ‘Oh my God, Tasmina Sheikh,’
and asked for my autograph.”
She’s now put her acting career aside to pursue her political
ambitions, following in the footsteps of her father, Mohammed.
In 1986, he became the first Asian regional councillor in the
UK, holding his Edinburgh ward for two terms.
Her dad had arrived in Britain from Pakistan in the 1960s and
settled in Edinburgh with his English wife Yasmin, Tasmina and
her sister Seema.
The girls were drafted in to help dad deliver leaflets as he
stood for election as a Tory candidate.
So, when Tasmina decided to enter politics, the Conservatives
welcomed her with open arms.
She fought the Govan seat for the Tories in the first Scottish
Parliament elections. She lost – and defected to the SNP the
She said: “When I spoke to people on the street, it was clear
the Tories couldn’t deliver what they wanted.
“I realised it wasn’t the right party to deliver the things I
wanted either – a multi-cultural, all-embracing, equal
Tasmina is now a member of the Yes campaign for independence and
a nominee for selection as an MEP candidate for next year’s Euro
So, how will she manage to jet to and from Brussels while
looking after the kids, practising law and helping to unite the
Asian women of Scotland?
She said: “I’ll manage – that’s what women do.”