Though I am a second-generation British Indian on my father’s side, my mother was born in India. Like most of those who live away from their homeland, she was intent on giving her children an exposure to her culture. She made sure that we understood the history, language, food and so on. In this way the British Asian diaspora has strong ties to the sub-continent and invests there, if not financially but definitely emotionally. We want to see progress there.
For me this materialised quite strongly as I decided to study the region at University (South Asian Studies at SOAS, University of London) and even spent a year volunteering for Save the Children in Gurugram, Delhi NCR.
I have been drawn towards the British Asian Trust as it is unique in solely focusing on the South Asian region and its diaspora as well as aiming to strengthen our society.
I believe that shoring up the social fabric of society is the true meaning of success, while India is gearing up to become an economic superpower, it needs to invest in the people and infrastructure to truly earn the title. The clearest way of doing so is to expand and sustain education systems so going forward the new generation can contribute to the country’s infrastructure through educational growth. I have seen first-hand what talent exists in unsuspecting areas such as the slums, that should be nurtured. During my first visit to a slum in New Delhi, I met children with desire and potential to contribute to society in various forms and it would be a shame to let that go to waste.
The physical and financial landscape should be strengthened to encourage the talent to secure India and not have to go abroad for a better paying future. Essentially, opportunity and scope need to be created for all and education and skills still need to be developed for more people. At the moment, India spends 3% of the GDP on education instead of the 6% that is suggested by academics and experts.
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, developing a compassionate society is paramount, where all groups, marginalised or not, are made to feel included and safe. This can be done by encouraging pastoral education in schools and training the teachers thoroughly, alongside specifically chosen curriculum and literature across all the education boards. This would normalise and create awareness of certain social agendas, such as casteism and the woman’s role in society, the family or the workforce. Charities have used popular public figures to aid their causes in the past, for example the British Asian Trust signed a three-year partnership with the Pakistan Cricket Board to challenge the stigma that surrounds mental health in society.
As members of the South Asian diaspora or those interested in this region’s development, simply supporting organisations such as the British Asian Trust, who are aiming to make a difference in the area by supporting education, is a worthy contribution of itself. The British Asian Trust strengthens the education system through working with partners to train teachers and developing their teaching tools. Notably, the organisation has raised an $11m fund to improve early learning among primary school children. Tackling social issues is never simple but hopefully, with willing participants and widespread support from all sectors of society, there will be small steps in the right direction, to overcome such glaring inequality.
Aradhana Bhandari, British Asian Trust supporter