Sofia Buncy has spent her career tackling the injustices within the community. Now her work has led to her appointment as one of West Yorkshires Deputy Lord Lieutenants.

Ms Buncy says she feels honoured by her appointment as Deputy Lord Lieutenant in West Yorkshire.

The appointment of Sofia and five others as Deputy Lord Lieutenants is to assist the Lord-Lieutenant in carrying out his role as The Queen’s representative.

Deputy Lord Lieutenants serve in their role until the age of 75.

The Lord-Lieutenants are appointed by the Sovereign on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Their duties include Escorting Royal visitors when they pay official visits to the County of West Yorkshire, while also representing the Queen at a wide range of events including duties with the armed forces and cadets, the Police, the Church, the universities, civic engagements, businesses, charities and the arts.

Sofia Buncy from Huddersfield is the national coordinator at the Khidmat centre but her work as founder and Coordinator of the Muslim Women in Prison Rehabilitation Project is one of the main reasons why she has been appointed.

The project started eight years ago as Muslim female offenders struggled to cope with the stigma of serving time in prison. It led to many being disowned by their families, ostracised by their community and unable to rebuild their lives for them and their children

Through the work, Sofia and her team of volunteers connect with the women while they are in prison, then offer support when they come out, on both practical issues such as housing and employment. They also offer emotional, faith and cultural-based support.

Sofia with the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge in Bradford in January

Muslim women in prison is an unspoken secret within the community, but also within the criminal justice system, which fails to address the cultural hurdles they face, making reoffending increasingly likely.

But through the work Sofia and her team have done, they have helped over 50 women in the last 12 months.

Her passion to help those re-establish themselves in the community led Sofia to research and co-authored the first ever report into Muslim women in British prisons. She has also provided evidence to MP David Lammy’s review of the BAME community’s treatment in the British criminal justice system and the Prison Reform Trust’s report on BAME women in the criminal justice.

The former youth worker has also worked with young women and their parents, where she successfully pioneered a leadership programme to support young Muslim women to raise their educational and career aspirations. Her decade-long efforts have helped some 200 young women back into education and careers ranging from medicine to youth work.

Her appointment as Deputy Lord Lieutenant is the latest accolade for this community superwoman.

She has numerous national awards for her work including the coveted Butler Trust Award for good practice in a custodial setting by Patron HRH Princess Anne. She has also won the Asian Women of Achievement award, a Criminal Justice Alliance Award and the Howard League Community Champion.

Sofia with HRH Princess Anne accepting of her awards

Through her work she has also rubbed shoulders with royalty as Sofia hosted HRH Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge when they visited the Khidmat Centres in Bradford.

Personal achievements are secondary to Sofia though as it’s her work that is her main focus.

The challenges have been there, but Sofia has knocked down every barrier and every wall that came in her way to pave the path she has built for herself today. Is it any wonder she would be appointed to represent the Royal Family?

Speaking of her appointment Sofia Buncy said: “I feel honoured to be trusted with the position of Deputy Lord Lieutenant for West Yorkshire. I am looking forward to representing the office with relish.

“I am of the firm view that women from BAME communities of right and merit must have presence at all levels of our diverse society. If this appointment helps to take this forward than it would be extremely worthwhile.

“Having worked within communities for 15 years it is encouraging that I have a further opportunity to carry on making difference.

“I pray and hope that my appointment will serve to open up further opportunities for women and will motivate them to take public roles.”

Sofia has the full backing of her colleagues with this appointment with Ishtiaq Ahmed, the General Manager of the Khidmat Centres, saying “We are very proud of what Sofia has achieved. She is a most worthy appointee. She will excel in the role making Bradford and West Yorkshire proud.”

Yousaf Sidat, the Chairperson of Khidmat Centres, said: “We are absolutely thrilled for Sofia. She is a high achiever who believes in leading by example. Sofia is an inspirational mentor for others. Hers is a good appointment for the City. We congratulate her and her family for this honour.

“The future of BAME women in our community looks in safe hands with Sofia being at the forefront to champion their cause and continue to break down barriers.”

There have been congratulatory messages from all corners of the region for Sofia, including a tweet from Bradford West MP and Shadow Minister for Communities Naz Shah, which read: “Truly well-deserved @MWIPproject and no doubt you will continue to do West Yorkshire proud! #LeadershipMatters #Yorkshire

Leader of Kirklees Council, Cllr Shabir Pandor who is a strong advocate for women had this to say about Sofia: “I’m delighted at the appointment, and I’m really happy that Sofia Buncy’s invaluable work with those who need help is being recognised. It’s great news for Kirklees and we are very proud of Sofia’s unrelentless work in the sector and her achievements. Women from BAME communities are hugely underrepresented within public roles such as this. I know Sofia will use this opportunity to continue to make a difference and act as a role model and inspiration to women across Kirklees and those from BAME backgrounds.