Asian Woman Festival 2021 goes virtual this year and places priority on accessibility, despite Covid restrictions.
The event that celebrates South Asian women and underrepresented genders in the diaspora is focusing on the importance of self-care and the power of putting yourself first.
1 in 6 British Asian’s are disabled but Birmingham based founder, Shani Dhanda says, this is the only accessible event she has seen for her community – something that she has had to create in order to feel a sense of belonging.
The festival includes British Sign Language interpreters and live subtitles as standard, meaning accessibility is a priority from the beginning and removing barriers without the need for attendees to request any adjustments.
Social expectations, cultural norms, gender role stereotyping and practices are some of the main reasons South Asian women can find it more difficult to prioritise their own needs first. The Asian Woman Festival team began to notice that these expectations were negatively impacting them on an even bigger scale as the pandemic escalated.
The impact of the pandemic of Black, Asian and ethnic communities have further intensified inequalities, research by the Fawcett Society shows:
Poverty and debt: More than 4 in 10 BAME women said they would struggle to make ends meet over the next three months.
Work and employment: BAME women and men reported high levels of anxiety about having to go out to work during the pandemic.
Domestic and care work: 45% of BAME women said they were struggling to cope with the different demands on their time.
Access to support: Over half of disabled or retired BAME women said they were not sure where to turn to for help a result of the pandemic.
Health and wellbeing: Life satisfaction and happiness were lowest for BAME women.
“We are a team made up of many women that come from all walks of life, including students, mothers and entrepreneurs, with some losing their jobs and some moving countries during this period. One thing we all have in common is knowing how difficult it can be to make time for ourselves. That’s why we have decided that this year’s Asian Woman Festival will focus on helping South Asian women and underrepresented genders understand the power of putting yourself first.”
The festival will bring together an impressive selection of contributors to provide festival attendees with the tools to work on self-compassion and appreciate the value of making yourself a priority. The festival will be hosted BBC presenter Shay Grewal and the line up includes:
Dr Radha Modgil, a practising NHS GP, broadcaster, author and campaigner for wellbeing
Rupinder Kaur, an award-winning, qualified & Forbes accredited personal performance coach
Poonam Dhuffer, wellbeing practitioner and founder of YSM8
Nikita Gill, poet, playwright, writer and illustrator
Shagufta Iqbal, founder of The YoniVerse Poetry Collective and Kiota Bristol, an award-winning writer, filmmaker, workshop facilitator and TedX Speaker.
Established in 2019 as a first-of-its-kind event, the festival will continue its mission to smash stereotypes, end taboos and empower South Asian women and underrepresented genders from all walks of life.
“Before I founded the festival I was looking for an event where I could meet like-minded people, and be able to share and discuss the challenges, as well as the beauty, of what it is to be an Asian woman living in the UK right now. There wasn’t anything out there, so I decided to create it myself” explains Dhanda who founded the festival.
She is also a multi-award winning disability specialist and entrepreneur who experiences disability due to a congenital rare condition. And was named in BBC 100 Women’s list and CEO magazine’s 16 of the most influential women in leadership for 2021 alongside Kamala Harris and Jacinda Arden.
“The success of our first festival demonstrated how much an event like this is needed for South Asian women and underrepresented genders. I love attending feminist events, but I often felt like my experiences as a South Asian woman are not always reflected in the content. So we are here to put South Asian women and underrepresented genders at the heart of our event. Representation is more important than ever, and true representation is intersectional,” says Dhanda.
However you identify, everyone is welcome!
The Asian Woman Festival launches online on 20 March 2021.
Free tickets are available at asianwomanfestival.com.