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What is South Asian Heritage Month?

South Asian Heritage Month (SAHM) is now in its third year.

The month was established to honour and celebrate South Asian history and culture. It is an opportunity for everyone to appreciate the countries in South Asia and learn new things about their heritage.

When is South Asian Heritage Month?

South Asian Heritage Month is celebrated between 18 July-17 August.

The Indian Independence Act received royal assent from King George VI on 18 July 1947, and the Radcliffe Line, which divides India, West Pakistan, and East Pakistan, was published on 17 August, by Cyril Radcliffe (date lawyer).

Which countries are in South Asia?

Here is a list of the eight countries that make up South Asia:

  • Afghanistan
  • Bangladesh
  • Bhutan
  • India
  • Maldives
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • Sri Lanka

What is the theme for South Asian Heritage Month 2022?

This year’s theme ‘Journeys of Empire’ looks at the history of empires founded from the 1300s through to the journey of families migrating to the UK following WWII.

This year also marks two significant anniversaries taking place in 2022, connecting South Asian people with their past and future:

  • The 75th anniversary of the partition of Pakistan and India in 1947
  • The 50th anniversary of the expulsion of Uganda’s Asian minority, in 1972 by President Idi Amin.

Throughout this year’s SAHM organisations can ‘Celebrate, Commemorate, and Educate’, by connecting people with South Asian culture through the ‘Celebration’ of arts, culture and heritage, the ‘Commemoration’ of South Asian history and through ‘Education’ of better understanding of the diversity in the UK today.

This year also sees SAHM celebrations taking place in real-life following virtual activities and events over 2020 and 2021. This is a positive move forward and in-person events will increase engagement and opportunities to showcase the wealth of culture.

When did South Asian Heritage Month start?

The first South Asian Heritage Month event was conceptualised and launched by the South Asian community in the UK in July 2019 at the House of Commons.

The Grand Trunk Project, The Partition Commemoration Campaign, City Sikhs, and Faiths Forum for London worked together to establish the initiative.

Why is South Asian Heritage Month important?

Along with providing learning opportunities for others, the month enables people of South Asian heritage to reclaim their history and identity by sharing their own stories and experiences.

What does it mean to people of South Asian heritage?

Here is what South Asian Heritage Month means to some of our team here at Inclusive Employers:

Farhanah Iqbal – Senior Consultant, Inclusive Employers

“South Asian Heritage Month is a relatively new concept but a very welcome one for those of us with South Asian heritage to reconcile what this means for us. For me, it takes me back to my childhood. Growing up in the UK and a child of immigrant parents, my story echoes so many others of South Asian descent.

The idea of not really belonging was never a foreign concept and being stuck in dual identities was (and in many ways continues to be), the normal state of existing.

The constant, unspoken need to oscillate between my born into British culture and my South Asian roots was how I subconsciously navigated my life. The impossibility to shake the remnants of Empire made it all the more complex for an already introspective child.

Little did young me know that many of those things she would hide away when she stepped out of the house – the vibrant clothes, the aromatic food, the spirituality, and the rich, complex but forgotten history, would all become things that were later celebrated and at times co-opted.

South Asian Heritage Month for me is a beautiful path into reclaiming and reconciling all parts of who I am.

South Asia is hugely diverse, panoramic, complicated, vibrantly colourful, delicate yet tenacious, and ever changing. The importance of celebrating SAHM, to me, is in recognising and accepting this and all it brings in all of it’s mind-boggling wonder!”

Tanisha Singla – Senior Consultant, Inclusive Employers

“I often joke that Indian people are everywhere I go in the world. This is usually out of shock at how far and wide we have travelled.

As a community we have been a crucial part of the labour market in the UK and globally travelling to where the work is, leaving families behind and the safety of the familiar.

This year’s theme ‘Journeys of Empire’ is marking the impact our communities who travelled across the world with no understanding of the language, culture and with minimal funds to start a new life.

This story is not unfamiliar to me or many others hearing stories of my grandparents, parents, aunties and uncles making the long (working) boat journey to the UK, Kenya, Africa and Uganda.

This year marks 50 years since my mum and her family were expelled from Uganda forcing them to start a new life in Leeds in the UK. I have a lifetime of stories to pass on to my children and I am incredibly proud of the journey my family made.

By celebrating South Asian Heritage month, we hear the voices of the past, the journeys unknown and celebrate the positive impact we have had and continue to have as the South Asian Diaspora.”

How to celebrate South Asian Heritage Month in the workplace

If you’re stuck with South Asian Heritage Month ideas, take a look at ours below:

Asking colleagues for their experiences

Ask colleagues of South Asian heritage to share their experiences if they are comfortable with this. Co-ordinate with your communications team and employee network groups to plan events and activities to support this. It allows people to learn more from lived experiences and gives insight into their culture.

Training

Your organisation can gain valuable insight into the culture and community by committing to learning new things about it this month. Training is an excellent way to broaden your team’s knowledge while also celebrating the month.

Inclusive Employers provide bespoke training, workshops and consultancy to suit the needs of your organisation, as well as hosting regular webinars across all areas of inclusion and diversity.

A recipe share of South Asian dishes

One option is to do a recipe share of South Asian dishes. There is a huge selection of food within the culture that is often traditional. By doing a recipe share, you can try all the food and learn more about the culture behind it at the same time.

Webinars

In August we’ll be hosting a one-hour webinar ‘Celebrating South Asian History and Contributions in the UK,’ which will aim to celebrate the history of South Asian communities here in the UK, their contributions to our society and lives and the impact that South Asian culture has had here in the UK.

 

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