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Celebrating South Asian Heritage Month

To mark the fourth iteration of South Asian Heritage Month, our senior manager in equality highlights how these communities are working together to create opportunities to be active.

10th August 2023

by Alpa Patel
Senior manager in equality, Sport England

Being part of an Indian community has opened doors to a wealth of cultural, religious, and traditional experiences, as well as opportunities to engage in sports and physical activities on a recreational level.

Embracing and understanding my cultural identity has been an ongoing journey, which is why when I first discovered South Asian Heritage Month (SAHM), I was excited to learn more!

I always look forward to seeing what is lined up for the month-long event, and how I can enhance my knowledge around different experiences and aspects of South Asian communities.

SAHM began on Tuesday 18 July and will continue until Thursday 17 August, offering a month-long celebration, commemoration and education about the history and heritage of South Asian communities.

The first celebration took place in 2020, during the height of the pandemic, with interactive ways for people to connect, celebrate and educate themselves via a variety of online events from talks on poetry and arts, to panel discussions on sports, culture, identity, history and faith.

Supporting South Asian communities to be active

This is also an important celebration to bring to life Sport England’s endeavours with its long-term strategy - Uniting the Movement – so I’m proud that, through our Together Fund and other funding, we’ve been able to support different kinds of projects to help make this community more active.

Some of them are described below:

  • Inclusive Dance with Sense, a programme aiming to reach older disabled people of South Asian heritage. This involved a weekly Bollywood dance class and opportunities to perform.
  • Be Active set up badminton sessions for inactive South Asian men in London from low socioeconomic groups at risk of poor physical health outcomes and currently facing financial challenges following Covid-19 and the cost-of-living crisis. Two sessions have been set up on a weekly basis covering different times to attract as many people as possible.
  • Surtal Arts Ltd provide dance classes for South Asian women and girls in Derby who are negatively impacted by cultural, financial, religious and communicational barriers in accessing social activities. These sessions provide a new and dedicated activity to this group, as female-only activities weren’t available in the local area before.

What impact does this have on our work?

This year’s SAHM theme is ‘Stories to Tell’, which is key to any community, so I wanted to highlight the importance of the South Asian community and our continued work in supporting them to lead a more active and healthier life.

Our Active Lives survey published each April, shows that significant inequalities continue to exist in activity levels between some minority ethnic groups and that, in particular,  activity levels among Asian adults are falling by 4.4% along with Black and other ethnicities.

I always look forward to seeing what is lined up for the month-long event, and how I can enhance my knowledge around different experiences and aspects of South Asian communities.

As a senior manager in equality within the equality, diversity, and inclusion team, I am devoted to ensuring representation across the sports and physical activity structure.

Whether as participants, athletes, coaches, administrators or board members, diversity should be visible throughout the system to drive real and lasting change.

This commitment is fuelled by the belief that everyone, regardless of their background, should have equal opportunities to access and participate in physical activity.

We can’t do it alone

We acknowledge that change takes time, but working as a team with a common goal makes us stronger and more resilient, and determined to achieve equity.

Collaboration with our partners deeply connected to organisations and communities remains vital to achieving our objectives.

By addressing inequalities in South Asian communities we empower these groups to be more physically active, fostering social connections, reducing isolation and improving mental wellbeing.

While we celebrate the incredible contributions of South Asian communities and their role in shaping a brighter future, we recognise that there is still much work to be done. Together, we continue to strive for positive experiences and lasting impact within these communities.

South Asian Heritage Month serves as an important reminder of cultural heritage and the opportunities provided for meaningful engagement in sport and physical activity.

By working together, we can shape a future where everyone can thrive, regardless of their background, and create a legacy for generations to come.

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