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The Rights Collective: Tackling the Gendered Inequality in the South Asian Diaspora

Gender rights, gender violence, identity and the immigrant experience are topics that have comfortably seeped into the conversations of the young South Asian Diaspora who are looking to better understand themselves and their communities. The Rights Collective was founded for this very reason to understand how gendered experiences manifest for South Asian womxn in the U.K. and how to facilitate a shift towards equality. We made a conscious choice to focus on self-identifying Hindu womxn, whether they are practicing religiously or identify with the cultural community as the original founders had grown up in Hindu spaces and recognise the complete lack of action.

Founded in September 2018, Co-Founders, Nishma Jethwa and Angeli Vadera, have spearheaded a number of initiatives with the The Rights Collective team to help propel conversations and dialogue in the South Asian community.

Who We Are

We are a group of womxn who are passionate about our communities. We have all experienced gender based stereotyping, discrimination or violence in some form. We also see that there has been very little acknowledgement or attempt to tackle such injustices within our wider communities here in the U.K. In addition to this, we recognise the clear failure of British support services to accommodate or support womxn from our community. This combined experience shows us that this conversation and our actions are a dire necessity.

We believe that the first step to tackling this issue is awareness and knowledge. This is why we have included a substantial research component to the early stages of our work - so that we are able to understand how womxn’s lives are affected by their gender identity in interaction with their other identities and the way their society perceives them.

What do we do?

Since our inception we’ve carried out our work through three distinct pathways which include:

Breaking the silence - We focus on understanding what the issue is, encouraging people to talk about it more openly, building trust and relationships. We currently do this through:

  • the The Rights Collective Zine, a space where marginalised voices from the South Asian diaspora are amplified into the places they needed to be heard the most.

  • Our Blog, which is just starting and welcomes anyone from the South Asian community who would like to contribute.

  • An upcoming podcast which aims to explore the intersection of different identities and how that impacts our sense of belonging as well as our sense of agency.

Cultivating a new culture - raising awareness, educating and changing the underlying socio-cultural norms that allow gender inequality to persist. We currently do this through:

  • Topic specific knowledge primers.

  • Ansuni Stories, a storytelling and research initiative, exploring the positives and negatives that result from our "collectivist culture".

  • Brown co-learning spaces where we work to unlearn and relearn our own understandings of the world and ourselves.

Co-creating spaces for support - bring together services that might support womxn in times of need. We are currently working to build:

  • a resource hub of curated lists of articles, books, papers, videos and anything else that we feel can inform us on the issues we hope to tackle and ideas that underpin our work.

  • referral pathways that will direct people to organizations and resources in the UK related to legal advice and services, mental health services, LGBTQI support, domestic violence and abuse support, and BAME organizations.

After lockdown started in the U.K. we also decided to think about what we could offer our community at this time. We have been currently running two pathways:

  • Ikhatta, a digital gathering of arts, poetry, teach-ins, solidarity sessions, workshops and more for our communities under lockdown.

  • Solidarity Circles to redistribute some of our resources to those who need it.

Supporting Racial Justice

In the U.K., notions of multiculturalism and racial stereotyping mean that support services either ignore those who need help or are unable to do their job effectively. Through our work, we hope to not only raise awareness about these issues but also to create a clear pathway where those in power can more fairly (re)distribute resources.

Our work also hopes to change how South Asian womxn see themselves in relation to their communities and wider society. An important factor in ending marginalisation is to improve visibility and we are providing a platform on which we hope that the self-identifying femme South Asian experience is not only heard but also celebrated.

We need to be alert to how racism manifests from/with casteism, classism, colourism and more within our communities and how that intersects with gender, sexuality and more. It is important for us to work across these intersections as it allows us to work from multiple lenses and see how privilege plays out within our communities too.

The long term impact we want to see is a dismantling of the structures that uphold marginalisation of womxn within our communities and within the wider U.K. context. Our work seeks to build power of the most marginalised within that space to be able to find liberation both within their communities and, consequently, in the world at large.

Get Involved

Written by Avi Virdee, Volunteer for The Rights Collective, and Crissanka Christadoss, Project Lead for The Rights Collective.



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