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Mrs Merlyn Vaz

We regret to announce the death of MERYLN VAZ on 15 October 2003 after a four-year battle with cancer. She was Leicester's first Asian woman councillor and champion for pensioners' rights. died . Wife of late Xavier. Mother of Penny, Valerie and Keith. Grandmother of Dominie, Finn, Neil, Liberty, Luke and Anjali. Condolences to

Below are excerpts from some of the Press reports about her.

Broadcast (UK)
31 May 1996

The BCC has upheld a complaint from Labour councillor Merlyn Vaz over an edition of Newsnight in which she was criticised by a former colleague.

The package, screened on 21 September 1994, documented a Labour Party inquiry into alleged problems within the Leicester branch. Vaz said she had been given no opportunity by Newsnight to counter claims made about her and said her reputation had been damaged. The BCC upheld Vaz's complaint that the item was unjust and unfair.

27 August 1998

Leicester City Councillor Merlyn Vaz, chairman of the Senior Citizen's Forum, compared filling in benefit claims forms to "trying to unravel a knotted ball of wool".

"Some of our senior citizens get so confused when they are trying to fill these forms in. It's terrible for them," she said.

16 October 1998
[ Move to liberalise child adoption rules].
It is a move supported by city councillor Merlyn Vaz, who believes age should be no bar. She said there were people in their 50s and 60s who had the time and capabilities to care for a child.

8 April 1999

Chairwoman of Leicester city council's senior citizen's forum Coun Merlyn Vaz has welcomed a new report on covering the cost of care for elderly people. Coun Vaz has responded to a report drawn up by The Royal Commission on long-term care proposing that £1 billion of Government cash should be provided to ensure that care for the elderly is free.

Nursing home care can set recipients back £400 a week, but at present people are entitled to help only if they have assets of less than £16,000. Coun Vaz said: "Many older people do not realise they may have to sell their home to pay for their residential care.

24 April 1999

Merlyn Vaz (Lab) is a sitting councillor, chair of the city council's senior citizens' forum and a retired teacher.

She is a widow and mother of three, including Leicester East MP Keith Vaz. Merlyn has six grandchildren and enjoys sewing and reading in her spare time. She says: "Housing is the most important issue, followed closely by traffic, broken pavement slabs and poor lighting. As my ward has a high proportion of elderly people, I am involved with their problems."

9 July 1999

A CHARITY which offers help for people with cancer has held a seminar to improve care for Asians across Leicestershire.

Coping With Cancer invited top speakers including Leicester city councillor Merlyn Vaz and public health consultant Dr Rashmi Shukla.

10 February 2001

Keith Vaz, who is married to Kenyan-born solicitor Maria Fernandes, came to London at the age of nine with mother Merlyn Vaz and sister Valerie in the mid-60s.

Merlyn, an Indian school teacher, is a formidable woman, who on her own raised her children to believe that any of their goals were possible. Her husband Xavier, a former airline clerk and Times of India journalist, died when the children were young.

21 March 2001
Merlyn Vaz, a teacher in the borough [Richmond], disputed her lack of promotion. She said that her failure to progress was discriminatory.

March 27, 2003
Pensioner power rewarded. By M. El Atkinson
Councillor Merlyn Vaz is marking her retirement from Leicester City Council by unveiling the Pensioners' Prize scheme. Prime Minister's wife Cherie Booth has agreed to act as patron, and the judges include Bishop of Leicester Tim Stevens.

Coun Vaz, mother of Leicester East MP Keith Vaz, is standing down in May after 14 years as councillor for Charnwood ward.

She chaired the council's first senior citizens' committee and has been a staunch campaigner on pensioners' issues.

Coun Vaz, 71, has been ill for some time with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Despite her retirement, she is determined to keep pensioners in the spotlight.

She said: "I've been on the council for 14 years now and I have really loved it because of the chance to help the pensioners. No such prize or recognition exists anywhere in the country that singles out pensioners for what they have done.

"The Pensioners' Prize will be an annual award to an individual or organisation in Leicester and nationally who has furthered the cause of pensioners.

"This new prize will help to ensure that those in power continue to recognise the importance of senior citizens." Coun Vaz will chair the panel of judges, who include Bishop of Leicester the Rt Rev Tim Stevens, Liam McCarthy of Radio Leicester, Baroness Ros Howells and Gita Patel of the IK Foundation.

People can nominate themselves or can be nominated by councillors or members of local groups. There is a cash prize of GBP 1,000 for each of the two categories.

Age Concern director John Scruton said: "It's a brilliant idea - I'm sure there are people here who would want to get involved. It's quite clear that although grey power is growing at the moment, it is somewhat hidden under a bushel.

"This is a great chance for older people who are making a contribution to stand up and be counted, and for the population as a whole to celebrate their achievements.'' Coun Vaz's son, Keith, said: "We are formally launching the awards at a retirement party for Merlyn tonight, where the guest of honour will be Welsh Secretary Peter Hain.

"This is like the Nobel peace prize for pensioners. I hope my mother's award scheme will be a great success."

15 October 2003
Leicester's first Asian woman councillor and champion for pensioners' rights has died today.

Merlyn Vaz died in hospital after a four-year battle with cancer. She was 74.

She had been suffering from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and was admitted to the intensive care unit in Northwick Park hospital, North London, on Saturday.

Today, her family revealed the tireless work Mrs Vaz carried out to help the people of Leicester and in particular for hundreds of pensioners.

After retiring from the city council in May, following 14 years as representative of Charnwood ward, Mrs Vaz chaired the council's first senior citizens committee.

She then became a staunch campaigner in support of pensioners' issues.

In April, Mrs Vaz launched an annual Pensioners' Award scheme to recognise the work of elderly people.

Cherie Blair, became patron of the scheme.

The judges for the prize include Baroness Howells, the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Rev Tim Stevens, and Nick Carter, editor of the Leicester Mercury.

In a fitting tribute by trustees the scheme was today renamed The Merlyn Trust.

Mrs Vaz and her late husband, Xavier, were born in Goa, India. They came to Britain in August 1965 and lived above a launderette.

After the death of her husband, Mrs Vaz moved to Leicester in 1985.

She taught at Whitehall Primary School before standing as Labour candidate in Evington.

In 1989 she was elected as a Councillor for the Charnwood ward and then became the first Asian woman ever to serve on Leicester City Council.

She was also elected the first chairperson of the council's pensioners committee, which became the Senior Citizens' Forum.

She edited and produced the first Pensioners' Guide, which listed services for the elderly in the City of Leicester.

At her council retirement party in March, Mrs Vaz revealed her love of people and a passionate belief in education which kept her going.

Her son, Leicester East MP Keith Vaz, said: "On her retirement card she wrote "never forget the pensioners".

"She knew we would all be pensioners one day."

Councillor John Thomas, chairman of Leicester East Labour Party, said: "She was unique. She made history and was a role model. They broke the mould when they made her."

She is survived by her three children, Penny, Valerie and Keith, and five grandchildren, Dominie, Finn, Neil, Liberty, Luke and Anjali.

18 October 2003
By Jennifer Sym.

The centre, at Hamilton Community College, was officially unveiled yesterday by Lord Falconer of Thoroton in honour of Merlyn Vaz, who died this week.

Mrs Vaz - mother of Leicester East MP Keith Vaz - died after a four-year battle with cancer.

She was the city's first Asian woman councillor, an active campaigner in support of pensioners' issues and a governor of Hamilton Community College.

Within days of her death, the Keyham Lane West school decided to honour her by naming the sports hall after the former teacher.

Lord Falconer, the secretary of state for constitutional affairs, cut a ceremonial ribbon at the school before unveiling a plaque and enjoying a dancing and gym display by pupils.

He told the audience of pupils, teachers, councillors, sports stars and other guests: "It is remarkable that coming here today I am able to open this sports centre and name it after Merlyn who did so much for all of us.

"Secondly, I am delighted because it is the most fantastic facility." Eddie de Middelaer, principal at the college, said: "It is a superlative day, simply because the community has been waiting 20 years for this and we have it now.

"It is fantastic and it is going to mean so much to sports development and excellence in sport in this part of the city." The hall was funded by the Department for Education and Skills, Hamilton Trustees and the city council.

Keith Vaz paid tribute to the hard work of those who had fought for the centre.

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