“For young people from non-traditional backgrounds like myself, a mentor can be the difference between success and failure. To have someone with clout and experience from industry is absolutely vital in building confidence and pathways to success. Mentors can become very influential and allow mentees to think through difficult challenges together, break down barriers and open doors where necessary.”

Kawsar Zaman, Trainee Solicitor

Kawsar was born in Tower Hamlets, the youngest of seven siblings.  His father worked as a tailors press while his mother stayed at home looking after the children. His older siblings all having left school at 16 in order to financially support the family, Kawsar was the first – along with his twin brother – to attend university, graduating from LSE, Oxford University and Harvard Law School as a Fulbright Scholar. He is currently working as a trainee solicitor at Clifford Chance LLP and is also a School Governor at Morpeth Secondary School (where he studied), a Trustee at Toynbee Hall, and a Commissioner for the Citizens Commission on Islam, Participation & Public Life.

In 2014, Kawsar was voted as the People’s Choice for the British Bangladeshi Power and Inspiration 100 list and also awarded the Muslim News’ Malcolm X Young Person of the Year Award in 2015. In 2016, Kawsar was recognised as the Outstanding Achiever within the one thousand strong Emerging Leaders Network, UpRising.

Kawsar was mentored by Rushanara Ali MP from college, through to university and then into working life. Kawsar believes many of his achievements to date have been as a result of the support and advice that Rushanara has given him. According to Kawsar, Rushanara’s commitment to his personal and professional development has been second to none. Despite her incredibly busy schedule as an MP, Rushanara has always gone beyond the ‘call of duty’ – often introducing him to other key figures in the world of law and politics.

“Growing up in the East End, I was all too aware of how cut off we were from power, from politics, and from opportunity. Having mentors gave me access to networks, gave me confidence, and helped me break into institutions like Oxford University and Parliament.

“It’s vital we do everything we can to ensure today’s young people are not prisoners of their background because it’s sadly still too often the case that in twenty-first century Britain, too much talent is wasted, too many young people are held back, and too many are left behind. We cannot afford to lose a generation.”

Rushanara Ali MP, Co-Founder of UpRising and Founding Chair of One Million Mentors

Rushanara began her career as the Research Assistant to Lord Young of Dartington (author of the 1945 Labour Party manifesto), helping him to set up Language Line, a national telephone interpreting company and Futureversity, a youth charity which has helped over a 100,000 young people – raising aspirations, cutting youth crime and getting them into work. 

Rushanara credits Michael Young, among others, as an important mentor to her during her early career providing opportunities, confidence and networks which inspired her to later go into politics and get elected as the first ever British Bangladeshi MP in the UK.

Rushanara began mentoring Kawsar at the start of his leadership journey. She has enjoyed watching Kawsar grow from a student in Tower Hamlets to an emerging leader achieving success in the top academic institutions in the world, in the local community and now in the world of work. Rushanara and Kaswar continue to stay in touch.