Every night over a billion people go to bed starving. Women and children are abused
and denied self-worth and over two hundred million people are still in abject slavery.
Freddie Mercury was right to ask, Is this the world we created?
Zoroastrians are unable to let injustice rest. Fighting evil in its many ugly forms
is in their nature. This heritage of noble action and universal charity was the spur
for Zerbanoo to stand for public office in 1982, ninety years after her hero, Dadabhai
Naoroji, had been elected as a Liberal MP. In her election campaign Zerbanoo faced
the full force of the British National Party, who were determined that no non-white
woman like Zerbanoo should hold political power in Britain.
Zerbanoo’s election victory gave her another platform for her courage and determination
to take on injustice and intolerance. She has dedicated herself to women’s empowerment,
the Interfaith movement and the eradication of modern-day slavery, especially child
labour and the trafficking of women.
Zerbanoo has supported her lawyer husband, Richard, in the fight against the illegal
expulsion of the Chagossians from their Indian Ocean homeland.
All Zerbanoo’s campaigns are interlinked, and involve working with other individuals
and organisations aiming to end human indignities.
The Z Factor highlights just some of Zerbanoo’s social and political campaigns; the
anti-apartheid struggle; fronting documentaries on the appalling lives of street
children; writing, giving talks and fundraising to highlight our unequal world; setting
up an Inspirational Women’s website with an international mentoring scheme; to founding
the unique ASHA Centre.
Zerbanoo first confronted the issue of child poverty when she was a little girl.
She made and sold flags for a penny to passers-by outside her family hotel in London.
She collected five pounds and sent it to the Prime Minister of India, asking for
action. Today, Zerbanoo is known as someone who makes things happen. She is a cosmic
networker. Her ability to connect people, whose magnificent causes she always supports,
has proved invaluable.
Zerbanoo and Bishop Trevor Huddleston presenting a petition to 10 Downing Street
calling for the release of Nelson Mandela.
Zerbanoo speaking at Trafalgar Square with the then leader of the Labour Party, Neil
Kinnock, accompanied by his wife, Glenys, calling for full mandatorysanctions against
Thousands of people in Trafalgar Square supporting the anti-apartheid movement.
Zerbanoo’s campaign leaflets.
At the Liberal Party conference in Eastbourne, holding her British passport aloft
to expose discrimination against British citizens born outside the UK. Her speech
was featured on BBC News and led directly to change.
Today the number of children in bonded labour is higher than it was before the so
called abolition of slavery. Millions worldwide are subjected to violent sexual
attacks and forced to work in mines, farms, factories and even brothels in the most
terrible conditions. They are denied a childhood because of the greed of their owners
and those who wish to buy goods at an unrealistically cheap price. Every child should
be entitled to an education, healthcare, food and a loving home. Anything else is
an indictment on us all.
In the 1960s, superpower rivalry made victims of 2,000 Chagos Islanders, when they
were evicted from their idyllic archipelago to make way for a US military base on
Diego Garcia, one of the 55 islands. This act of ethnic cleansing showed Britain
in the last throes of colonial arrogance, using underhand methods to conceal a crime
against humanity. Britain lied to the UN, saying the Chagossians had been consulted,
compensation would be paid and they were merely contract workers. In fact, this settled
population was deported in dreadful conditions 1,000 miles to Mauritius and the Seychelles,
where they have lived in poverty and exile ever since. The court victory of 2000
was their first step in a legal marathon, which continues today.
Zerbanoo with rescued street children in India who now live in the Sneha Sadan Homes
and are loved and cared for.
In all her books, Zerbanoo has championed the achievements and noble campaigns of
heroes and heroines who deserve acclaim, like Thomas Clarkson. Described by Zerbanoo
as one of the noblest of Englishmen, he dedicated his life to ending the transatlantic
slave trade and yet was written out of our history books.
In 1992 Zerbanoo co-chaired the Dadabhai Naoroji Centenary, for which she wrote his
biography, in order to bring to light one of the best kept secrets of British political
life – that there had been a non-white MP, elected to Parliament in 1892, in the
reign of Queen Victoria.
In 2004 Zerbanoo was awarded a NESTA Fellowship (National Endowment, Science, Technology
and Art) for which she interviewed and wrote about over 300 women from 60 countries,
whose inspirational lives have changed our world.
Zerbanoo’s husband, Richard, with older Chagos Islanders, and (right) some younger
Chagossians wondering if they will ever return to their home.
Eight-year-old boy working in a Columbian mine
Leader of the Chagos Refugee Group, Olivier Bancoult, with Richard, his lawyer, leaving
the High Court in London after a legal
victory, in which the deportation of the Chagossians was declared unlawful. Four
years later the British government abolished their right of return.