- Can you tell us a bit about what triggered you to start Voices of Colour and the story behind it?
I’ve worked in both the charity and social enterprise sector for more than four years and realised that there were not many youth programmes tailored to amplifying the lived experiences of young South Asian women. As I started to better understand my own surroundings and the world around me, I began to realise that there is a huge inequality gap when it comes to the matter of representation and the importance the voices of South Asian women hold in society. As I took a step out of Southall and moved to university, those very inequalities became quite stark. This ranged from not seeing many academic staff of colour to being presented with a whitewashed curriculum. I was confronted with a lot of questions. Why was I not seeing many women who looked like me in senior roles? Was it because not a lot of them were simply not applying for the roles, was there a systemic barrier that automatically put them at disadvantage or was it the impact of some patriarchal South Asian traditions?
- What are the main issues that you are looking to address with Voices of Colour?
During several focus groups, insight sessions and 1:1 interviews with young South Asian women, it became quite apparent that they lacked a platform to amplify their voices about issues that impact them within their community. This ranged from issues such as mental health and the accessibility of such services to discrimination. It was also highlighted that the lack of exposure to South Asian role models from a variety of sectors has had an impact on their aspirations and their perceptions on what many workplaces look like across the UK. With Voices of Colour we aim to provide them with a safe space to embrace themselves and provide them with role models in the form of mentors to support their personal development journey.
- What would you say to the young women that follow us in Asian Mums Network that are not after the careers they would like to be part of and therefore are interested in the help your programme provides? How can they reach you?
We know that everyone has their own path when it’s concerning their career decisions and it can be quite an overwhelming process to understand which sector, you’d like to work in. We currently offer young South Asian women between the ages of 15-25 the opportunity to be part of our Changemakers programme, which includes gaining an insight into social innovation and community action. This is accompanied with mentoring support and career guidance to ensure we are able to provide each and every participant with the opportunity to gain 1:1 support in better understanding their career aspirations.
- What methodology did you develop in order to both empower and help young women to follow their career dreams?
Our approach from the very beginning has consisted of co-designing each element of the programme with both South Asian girls and women who would be using the services we provide. We want to ensure that we embody what we stand for, which is to keep the voices of these women at the heart of the work we do and the support we offer throughout the programme. The community action element of the programme aims to provide the girls with the power and opportunity to play a real part in their community by promoting engagement, advocacy and consultation at local level. Their voices are at the centre of what local community change looks like and they will be able to gain an array of both practical and soft skills during the process. Their overall involvement in community action helps develop their job prospects and wellbeing. It helps to builds confidence, teamwork skills, resilience and character – key attributes for young people to succeed in employment and in life.
The mentoring element of the programme aims to provide the girls with an insight into the world of work via being paired with a South Asian woman from different sectors who will be supporting their personal development whilst they are part of the programme.
- Who is the main team that forms Voices of Colour and what are their roles?
I founded Voices of Colour this year in May and have been working to get the initial phase of the programme up and running. I’m looking to onboard another team member who can support us. To have a wider impact via our programme.
- Since the beginning, what was your main mission with this project?
At the core of Voices of Colour is the mission of ensuring that the voices of young women from different ethnic backgrounds are not side-lined and are taken seriously in today’s society. It has been to ensure that they receive the support they deserve and are provided with the space to grow and learn about their aspirations at a pace which they are comfortable with.