Sheffield University students praised for bringing people together in challenging times
A group of Sheffield university students have been praised for their dedication to bringing people together showing that those from different backgrounds can be united by their experiences and values.
The British Asian Society at the University of Sheffield was one of 50 communities across the UK that was included in an anthropological study conducted by Karmarama, an advertising agency based in London.
The study aimed to find out how communities in the UK behave, with the additional impact of Covid-19, Brexit and culture wars.
Amara Omar, a founder of the University of Sheffield’s British Asian Society, said: “In this day and age, where people are very divided about culture and religion, I think we just wanted everyone to feel safe in a space. Otherwise, people are stigmatised for being Asian in this society, sometimes, and often subject to racial harassment, and things like that.
“We wanted to make a society where no matter who you are, you feel safe and you can just be yourself, because it’s really important that we have a society where people feel safe and can celebrate what makes them.
“Our aim is to be really inclusive and not limited to just people who identify as British-Asian, but also to celebrate everything that is good about it and have people enjoy that.”
Amara was one of many individuals who had attended other cultural societies and felt they did not fit in.
Anu Shemar, events coordinator and another founding member, said: “For me personally, it was just like, growing up differently so that you watched different TV programs; you’ve grown up eating different foods, wearing different things, listening to different music, that kind of stuff. It’s the small stuff really that, like, makes people click with each other. That kind of cultural gap.”
Fatima Aktar, the treasurer, added: “You can surround yourself; you can do the most typical British things, but, at the end of the day, based on the colour of your skin, or your family, you will still have that exposure [to something ‘else’].”
The Karmarama study looked at how the British Asian Society - one of few ‘British Asian’ societies in the UK - has brought people together, focusing on how they have addressed diversity and inclusivity, mental health and wellbeing, its desire to help others and make a positive social impact, and the ability to use social media positively.
Concerns were raised before registering the society over fears that it would be divisive.
Kaviraj Sivarajah, a previous society president, told how questions were asked, such as: Is it going to be viable? How can it make money? Why is there a British Asian Society? Why are you trying to put labels on people?
The group successfully made their case however, and the society has now been running for almost two years, becoming a safe space for people to meet others whom they can relate to.
“Uni can easily become a very isolated place”, said Talal Zaber, the society’s most recent president.
The British Asian society hopes to hold more events in future and attract new members, not just those who identify as British-Asian.