Baroness Sayeeda Warsi visits South Africa

Baroness Sayeed Warsi is a mother, wife, lawyer, businesswoman, campaigner and a British cabinet minister. She is widely known as the first Muslim to serve in the British cabinet. Baroness Warsi is the daughter of Pakistani immigrants; she was born in Dewsbury in 1971, West Yorkshire. Dewsbury is a small town that is known for its wool mills and is considered a working class neighbourhood. She read for her law degree at Leeds University and on graduating worked for the Crown Prosecution Service and Home Office Immigration Department before joining Whitfield Hallam Goodall Solicitors.

Baroness Warsi left the solicitors to open up her own practice. In 2005 she stood as the Conservative Party’s candidate in her home town and in the same year she was appointed by David Cameron as the vice-chair of the party. In 2007 at the age of 36 she was introduced to the House of Lords, making her its youngest member. In 2010, Sayeeda was appointed as Minister without Portfolio in the Cabinet when she became the chair of the party. In 2012, she was made Senior Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister for Faith and Communities. During her time in Cabinet, Baroness Warsi made tremendous contributions in putting faith and interfaith relations on the national and international agenda.

She also played a critical role in promoting Islamic finance; and chaired the Global Islamic Finance and Investment Group. Her efforts resulted in Britain becoming the first Western country to issue a Sukuk in 2014. On 5 August 2014, she resigned from the Government because she could no longer support the official position on violence that the people of Gaza experienced at the hands of the Israeli state. She found her government’s approach and language to be “morally indefensible” and “not consistent with the rule of law and our long support for international justice.” Baroness Warsi is Pro Vice Chancellor at the University of Bolton, an Advisor to Georgetown University Washington DC and Visiting Professor at St Marys – the oldest Catholic university in the UK.

View an image gallery from her time in South Africa.