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The forgotten civil rights struggle that will spur students to action


When it comes to the teaching of civil rights in schools, issues surrounding apartheid, women’s rights and the transatlantic slave trade are all staple parts of the programme. But rarely will you find the plight of the thousands of South Asian migrant workers that came – and continue to come – to the UK on the curriculum. 

This is an oversight two academics are trying to rectify. Dr Sundari Anitha of the University of Lincoln and Professor Ruth Pearson of the University of Leeds, have developed the Striking Women project to highlight the important role South Asian women have played in the UK workforce and to highlight their struggles to be afforded the same rights as their fellow workers. 

As part of the project, the academics have developed classroom resources that will help teachers to tell this under-represented story. Workbooks, timelines and case studies demonstrate this marginalised group's struggle for rights in employment and within trade unions. 

Des Barrow, a geography teacher from Hackney, London, used the resources for a GCSE unit on the "Moving World". He says that the story of these migrant communities can really hit home because the issues are still so relevant to modern events. 

“As a teacher in a school with a very diverse population, it’s helpful to find resources that the students can directly relate to," he adds. "With the proliferation of call centres and outsourcing, and as immigration from Eastern Europe and elsewhere brings in new workers, issues of migration and workers’ rights are as important today as they were in previous times."

The project's resources also include a downloadable two-part comic offering an insight into some of the personal stories of activists from the South Asian community. 

As we approach the middle of Black History Month, the academics hope that the struggles of South Asian women within the UK workforce will not be overlooked and will instead be taught alongside the more mainstream issues that schools tend to focus on. How successful that aim turns out to be is down to you. 

Find free lesson plans, activities and teaching ideas in our dedicated Civil Rights collection.


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