I have been working on the CareTech and Family Books for COSARAF for almost two months now, and it has been an incredibly enlightening experience.
In researching for the role, my focus was on the plight of the Asian community from Kenya in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Despite having studied immigration in this period at university, I knew next to nothing about the mass movement of Asians from Eastern Africa. While it was interesting to research something I had little knowledge of, I also found it incredibly sad, particularly with regard to the British Government’s hostile policies directly targeting non-white Commonwealth immigrants. I feel very grateful that the blind spot on my part has been erased, and to have a greater understanding of this essential British history.
My first assignment was along similar lines, with a focus on three areas – Africanisation policies in formerly British ruled East Africa, namely Kenya; a timeline of African independence, the political contexts for this, and corresponding events in England; finally, Britain between 1969-1974, the period in which Haroon and Faruoq began their journey in England. When reading about this period, I discovered that there is a tendency among writers to describe the 1970s as a lost decade, a hangover from 1960s counter-culture beset by political, civil and financial strife. In many respects, this reflection is accurate. The Troubles in Northern Ireland began, miners were striking, unemployment peaked at one million. It was a difficult period, one rife with political uncertainty as England exited the sixties with a Labour Government, turned Conservative, returned to Labour, and finally left the seventies under Margaret Thatcher.
I found all of this very valuable, particularly when narrowing down this extremely broad context of the ‘lost decade’ to look at immigrant communities, particularly that of the East African Asians. Many of these migrants came from affluent lives and commercial careers in Africa, before having to rely on factory work and lowly paid labour once in the UK. Of course, the conservative, racially discriminatory Immigration Acts tried to deter immigrant communities from settling – but they failed. One of my favourite titbits of information from this research was that many of the factory strikes over fair working conditions and equal payments in factories were spearheaded by Asian women who migrated to the UK.
I am very grateful to COSARAF for giving me the opportunity to research and learn about these essential parts of British history – ones that everyone should know about.
I am currently assisting with the CareTech 25 Year anniversary book, which has been an equally interesting experience in an entirely different way. This involves researching the way the company has grown, something that really reflects the absolute good that CareTech does. I have found the project very moving, and feel honoured to have got to learn about the services that CareTech provides, and the people – residents and staff alike, who make it such a special community.