Summer 2016: 2 South Asian girls meet in a pub. It sounds like the beginning of a terrible joke; in fact, it was the beginning of a much-needed conversation about the experiences of South Asian women.
Both Shirin and I have our own blogs, and around the same time had written about our own encounters as brown women living in England – I’d just come back from India and had written about what I’d witnessed about the way women are treated there compared to my own family, and Shirin had shared her thoughts on what it’s like as a South Asian woman on Tinder. A mutual friend put us in touch, and on realising we only lived around the corner from each other, there we were!
South Asian communities are famously not the best at speaking out about emotional and personal issues – even less so when it comes to looking inwardly at our own culture. It becomes even more intricately complicated for those of us who are first-generation migrants of South Asian heritage, having grown up in and amongst ‘Western’ culture, to try and reconcile a sense of identity and pride in our customs, but also question them when necessary. When I first started my own blog, I was very wary that my family may come across it, and so I genuinely tried to remain as politically correct and emotionally distant from what I was writing as possible – difficult in itself considering the entire premise was powered by my opinions. Publishing the first piece I ever wrote about my experience as a British Indian woman travelling back to my family’s village in India was scary in itself, but the positive reactions I received were so empowering, and made me realise it wasn’t just me who’d made these observations about my culture and heritage. People reached out to me with their own stories and encounters that they had witnessed, but they just hadn’t had the platform or the security to be able to share them. I realised then that the South Asian experience in Britain – and more specifically, that of the South Asian female – was one that needed sharing.
Luckily, Shirin felt the same way, and South Asian Sisters Speak or S.A.S.S. was born (the acronym may or may not have been deliberate ha). Our aim is to bring South Asian women together, to create a space and a sense of community where women can share their experiences. Our first event was on 18th March, where issues such as cultural appropriation, beauty ideals and relationships all surfaced in the discussion. We met some wonderful people, some of whom have already been making progress in the South Asian female space in the UK. The experience in itself was for me so cathartic – to be in a room full of interested, understanding and supportive people, to finally feel that what I’d once shied away from typing on my keyboard I could now stand up and say, with a confidence that I would be heard.
It’s a strangely exciting and uncertain time to be both an ethnic minority and a woman in the West, but we’re looking forward to things to come. More importantly, we want people to join in the conversation – we’d love to hear any thoughts, opinions or suggestions you may have, so please get in touch!
The blogs that started it all: