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‘The Empress of this Universe’

Baroness Shreela Flather

The Empress of this Universe. That’s how Anita Anand, the writer/journalist, described Baroness Shreela Flather. She is the first Asian woman to receive a peerage and the first from ethnic minorities in the House. Baroness Flather, a teacher turned politician turned Life Peer, had the courage to stand for mayor in Windsor and Maidenhead. Of course, in a sari. She rocked the establishment with this five-metre wonder called Sari. She gained attention for wearing a sari at House of Lords. A special profile of Baroness Flather by Asian Lite News

Baroness Shreela Flather
Baroness Shreela Flather

Known for her outspoken views on cultural and social values, Baroness Flather has clashed with many people, on varied issues. As a humanist, she is unapologetic about her views, she stands by, and stands up for her beliefs. It is her firm belief that one should not hide behind political correctness as it stops communication.

In September 2011 she accused the Bangladeshi and Pakistani immigrant communities in the United Kingdom of having a large number of children in order to be able to claim more benefits. She said the issue did not apply to British families of Indian origin as the Indian families had a different mentality from that of the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities in the UK, desiring that their children should be educated. In the later campaign against cousin marriages, she sought the help of Archbishop and other prominent figures to intervene.

Baroness Flather was born on 13 February 1934 in Lahore and is the great-granddaughter of the great philanthropist, engineer and agriculturalist, Sir Ganga Ram, who during the late 19th-20th century made a huge contribution in varied spheres of life in British India.

Shreela Flather came to London to read for the bar, and attended University College London. She did not practice law, but instead applied to teach English as a second language. In 1952 she married English QC Gary Denis Flather, they live in Maidenhead and have two sons.

Baroness Shreela Flather meets Queen Elizabeth II
Baroness Shreela Flather meets Queen Elizabeth II

Baroness Flather is the first Hindu woman in British politics. But she described herself as a “Hindu atheist.” A member of the Conservative Women’s National Committee, Baroness is passionate about women and how they are treated, particularly Asian woman. She has served as Deputy Mayor and as Mayor for the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.   She became a life peer for the Conservative party on 11 June 1990 as Baroness Flather, of Windsor and Maidenhead in the Royal County of Berkshire. She was recognised as Asian Who’s Who Asian of the Year 1996.

She believes that bringing poor women into paid work will solve a multitude of problems. She was shortlisted for the Grassroot Diplomat Initiative Award in 2015 for her outspoken work on women’s rights.

She has worked tirelessly for the humanitarian causes, fighting for social justice, for refugees, community, race relations and for people in prisons. She is a distinguished supporter of the British Humanist Association and an honorary associate of the National Secular Society. She is patron of a number of charities, including the British branch of Child in Need India and the UK population concern charity, Population Matters.

Baroness Flather considers building the Memorial Gates for the four million soldiers in two world wars from the Indian Sub-continent, Africa and the Caribbean as her outstanding achievement in her life. She has written a book about how to change extreme poverty in Africa and India.

Baroness Shreela Flather has set up a charity, `Women Matter’ which will work for the empowerment of women in Africa and India. She plans to hold a breakfast meeting with the corporates in this country who can contribute to the cause of women to take forward the charity. “If I could, I would set up many co-operatives which can function among women,” said she reminiscing about the experience she had with a co-operative in Hyderabad in India, which gave sewing machines to many women from the economically backward areas.

“The self-respect that women gain when they earn their own money goes a long way in taking care of themselves, as is evident from the experience of garment factory workers in Bangladesh,” informed the Baroness.

Promising herself to strive for the betterment of women in the Asian and African communities, she recalled herself as a little Indian woman born in Lahore who has come a long way to represent Britain in Brussels and to be friendly with the royal family while she was the Mayor of Windsor.

Baroness concluded by saying that she never felt discriminated in the House of Lords as the Lords made her feel at home with their niceties and methods. In 2010 she published Woman: Acceptable Exploitation for Profit, a thought-provoking book which argues for the economic inclusion of women for global benefit

“I am blessed to have a very supportive husband and children without whom I would not be able to commit myself to all the humanitarian causes that I feel deeply about,” said Baroness Flather.

Her son Paul now organises conferences for the British Council, whilst Marcus is a cardiologist. Both of them are married with two children each.