During South Asian Heritage Month (18 July - 17 August), we spoke to our Progress Housing Group colleagues, Progress Connect Officer, Tauseef, and RWP (Reside With Progress) PA, Elisha, and asked: What does South Asian Hertage Month mean to you?

What does South Asian Heritage Month (SAHM) mean to you?

Tauseef: Hi everyone, South Asian Heritage Month means a lot to me. The UK is a very diverse country with many backgrounds and cultures practised up and down the country. SAHM gives me the opportunity to open up and talk with people about my culture, and share experiences and topics.

Elisha: This is my first time celebrating South Asian Heritage month. Being Punjabi it is a big part of my identity, the South Asian community has made major contributions to society and often lead by example.

What are you most proud of?

Tauseef: I am proud of my heritage and background; my father is from Pakistan and came to the UK in the 1980s, where he met my mother, born here, but her grandparents were also from Pakistan. So I have been brought up with the best of both worlds, East and West, with different traditions.

Elisha: My great grandparents arrived here in 1955, they came to Scotland and then settled in Birmingham. They made huge sacrifices and survived many hardships when they arrived.

The position and influence South Asians have on society today, economically, politically and culturally is remarkable. Knowing that history of South Asians and the place they have carved out for themselves is what I am most proud of, as a community we have power and a voice. The 2020-2021 Farmer’s Protests that took place worldwide and influenced change in India is a perfect example of that power.

What keeps you connected to your Heritage?

Elisha: The language and music! Despite being born in the UK, Punjabi is my first language. My dad knew I would learn English at school and use it throughout my life but he was worried I wouldn’t be able to communicate with my family in India if I didn’t learn the language.

Tauseef: I think my religion is a big part of keeping me close to my culture and heritage. Also, being with my family and friends too, as we celebrate them together. I must say, I find the food is always a great way to share with family and friends and sharing food has started many interesting conversations in the office.

How can people support South Asian Heritage Month?

Elisha: Take some time to understand more about the culture. Growing up even a little comment no matter how innocent would replay in my mind for hours, days and weeks even. For a young person trying to navigate through life there is enough confusion without having to figure out if your culture/cultural beliefs fit the ‘norms’ of society.

Tauseef: There is also a lot of information on the SAHM website www.southasianheritage.org.uk

What conversations, if any, have you had with others inside or outside of work around South Asian Heritage and culture?

Tauseef: Our Roots Network discusses race and identity and how we can better celebrate our different cultures at the Group.

Elisha: Outside of work I am always advocating change and reach, anything is achievable if you want it bad enough. South Asian representation has grown enormously and it is an opportunity for young people to continue seeing the growing ‘first’ South Asian in many roles.

At work the conversations need to be about exposure for those who are already in senior roles, and more opportunity for junior staff who want to excel.

What, in your view, could the Group be doing to be a more inclusive workplace?

Elisha: Even more agile/remote/flexible working (where it's not already offered) would attract more applicants from diverse areas.

South Asian Heritage Month (SAHM) takes place between 18 July and 17 August and aims to commemorate, mark and celebrate South Asian cultures, histories and communities.

You can find out more by clicking here to visit the SAHM website.