attempts to build a picture of the Highfields area and the communities that live
there. Also I have tried to
illustrate how the Bangladeshi community suffer from oppression from other
communities as well as the services. I
then demonstrate what I think I will be able to do for them and what I actually
do to help them, and then evaluate the situation.
A Case Study of Anti-Oppressive
At present I am
working at Medway School and Community Centre, which is situated in the
Highfields area of Leicester. Highfields
is an inner city area, located to the east and south east of the city, and is
made up of three wards, which are Spinney Hill, Wycliffe and Charnwood.
The area is largely a Victorian development with one council estate,
which is the St Peters Estate developed in the 1960’s, consisting of tower
blocks and maisonettes.
It contains about 30,000 people who are from many religious and cultural
backgrounds. The largest area of
Highfields falls in the Spinney Hill ward, which in the 1991 census revealed was
made up of over 80% Black and Asian communities. Unemployment rates within the area were 23.7%, which were
higher than the city average of 13.8%.(Leicester City Council, Census:1991)
I have lived in
this area for over 30 years and in recent years, I have noticed that there has
been an increase in the number of the Bangladeshi community moving in.
Where they have become extremely concentrated around the area of the
Medway School and Community Centre.
are slower than most other Asian communities to adapt to life in a western city.
Even after they have lived here for ten years, many’ ‘ are unaware of
their rights as citizens, tenants and employees and do not make use of the state
welfare provisions, largely because of their limited knowledge of the English
area was chosen as a study because I strongly felt that I could physically do
something to help improve the situation. I
felt that if I could empower and encourage certain users of the centre, more so
members of the Bangladeshi community. Then
by educating and training them I felt I would be helping them to help other
members of their own community to access facilities.
These facilities are important to access because they are needed by
individuals in order to aid them in to improve their everyday life.
other areas within my field practice that I felt were being oppressive to
certain members of the community. One
of these areas being the exclusion of members of the community who are
element of anti-oppressive practice is to ensure that peoples rights are not
This is because
the access into the building was limited and did not include any routes in for
people in wheelchairs, therefore their rights are violated.
The centre has plans to be revamped during the summer, however these
plans still do not include access for the disabled.
I know that this is an area that needs to be addressed.
However I felt that I was not in a position to be able to challenge this
situation, simply due to the time factor and my position within the centre.
closely with the community members for nearly four months now.
During which I have spent a great deal of time with them, which included
being with them in an informal learning and social environment.
The social environment included cultural gatherings and shopping trips.
During advice sessions held at the Medway Bangladeshi Centre, I also had
the opportunity to interpret in Hindi for a few of the Bangladeshi community
members. This was because the
centre found it extremely difficult to locate anyone to interpret in Bengali.
I found this to be oppressive towards the Bangladeshi community because
within a centre who’s sole purpose was to cater for the Bangladeshi community.
It was not fulfilling it purpose. However,
whilst interpreting for those few people who could understand Hindi I began to
realise the problems faced by many of the Bangladeshi community.
Many of these problems were centred on the social services, which
included issues concerning benefits, rents, legal matters and immigration.
‘Whoever we are we have
rights. There are those of us who
may feel that our rights are denied-perhaps some more than others’.
agree with this statement whereby everyone has a right.
However, in the case of many of the Bangladeshi community, I felt that
their rights were being taken away from them.
Unlike other Asian communities who speak Gujarati, Hindi and Punjabi,
which were now more familiar to the services and easier to provide interpreters
for, however the Bangladeshi community is under represented.
This is because many of the other Asian people have now been in this
country since the early 60’s and are more established.
Many of these communities’ members have also found employment within
the social services. Therefore
advice and information would be available in their language. I felt that the Bangladeshi community or this ‘race’ was
being made to feel inferior and vulnerable simply because of their language,
cultural and religious backgrounds. I
have used the term ‘race’ to describe this group because
categorisation involves not only difference but also implies relations of
superiority/inferiority. This on
the basis of racism’.
(1984) defines racism as the: ‘belief in the inherent superiority of one race
over all others and thereby the right to dominance, manifest and implied’.
I felt that
racism is the appropriate term to use in this case because I felt authorities
were treating them less favourably then they do other communities.
By not providing them with Bengali speaking interpreters, the Bangladeshi
community were not able to access information and facilities, which would help
improve their lifestyles.
‘Most Bangladeshi people in this country
have come from one district of Bangladesh-that is, the District of Sylhet’. (Wallis,1981:84)
Talking to one
of the community leaders I found this statement to be true.
Majority of the Bangladeshi community do come from the Sylhet district of
Bangladesh, which is mainly rural land. Most
of the community members have little formal education, which includes reading
and writing in their own language.
Looking at the
structure of oppression developed by Thompson (1993) called the PCS model.
I can illustrate how oppression is occurring, because this model is used
to ‘develop our understanding of discrimination and the oppression that
arises from it’. (Thompson,1998:12).
It operates at three very separate levels, which are inter-related.
These levels being personal, cultural and structural ‘(hence
the term PCS)’. (Thompson,1998:12).
itself is a powerful force. On a
personal level it can lead to demoralisation and lack of self-esteem, while at a
structural level it can lead to denial of rights’.
proves to be true because at the personal level the community is oppressing
itself because not being able to access facilities they are not receiving the
advice in maintaining their health, hygiene and environment.
At the cultural
level oppression is coming from other communities because they feel that they
are superior to them, due to the fact that they are more familiar with the
services and maybe able to speak English, therefore demoralising the Bangladeshi
structural level, institutions such as schools, hospitals, social security
offices, advice centres the list is endless do not provide a facility whereby
individuals from the Bangladeshi community can access them, whereby denying them
often involves disregarding the rights of an individual or group and thus a
denial of citizenship’,’ degrading treatment of individuals or groups’.
I have used
oppression to refer to the disregarding of rights, as well as the degrading of
Having grown up
with a community who had to constantly fight for their rights and to be treated
equally, to those living in this country. I can remember the struggle my community members were going
through when they had appointments at the hospital, schools or even when they
were out shopping. In the late
sixties and early seventies there were very few people from the ethnic minority,
who were employed within the social services or even in the retail industry.
Therefore any contact the communities who spoke English as a second
language was with people who only spoke English.
I remember having to interpret for my mother when going shopping, and
even when we use to go to the doctors or dentists.
It was always a big task going anywhere, because she always had to take
someone with her. There were times
when I use to go along with my mother and I remember that shop assistants or
even attendants at the hospital would make fun of her or they would say
something rude, thinking that we didn’t understand.
Then they would laugh or make a joke of it.
I don’t think that anyone should be put in that position, and when they
are not able to fight back. Therefore
I believe that each individual has the right to access any facility available
within this country, because it is his or her basic right to do so.
They shouldn’t have to rely on family and friends to help them.
In some cases family and friends are not available, therefore the person
needing help in then isolated.
communities interpreters course, was an introductory course that I help to set
up, and which I felt would help community members to approach interpreting in a
more professional manner. Also it
was set up to make local services such as schools, doctors, and advice centres
recognise the skills people who speak two or more languages possess.
They had to be made aware that these skills needed to be rewarded if
used. However in this case my aim
was to educate members of the community who will then be able to assist other
members within their community, access facilities and ‘offering a common
purpose: that of self-development’. (Jeffs and Smith,1990:74)
advertising the course were put up in areas where I felt they would receive most
publicity, such as the library, doctor’s surgery, other community centres and
religious institutions. Therefore
anyone wishing to take part did so voluntarily. Medway Community Centre has many adult classes running
throughout the year. They
have an area set away from the rest of the school, which then gives the learner
a less formal feel. Therefore would
help encourage more adults to take part.
context of the course there were sessions set out to understand equal
opportunities, the importance of confidentiality, understanding multi agency
work and the importance of team working.
to the informal educational process is the ability to develop an appreciation of
the cultures encountered and the ways in which interventions may be
I felt gave the learner the opportunity to understand religions, cultures and
backgrounds of other people.
setting up this course helped me to demonstrate my ability to apply my work as a
youth and community worker. Together
with a colleague from university, we facilitated the session on equal
opportunity and confidentiality. We
had the opportunity to challenge people’s feelings about gay and lesbian
people. The students on the course
had very strong links with their religion and culture.
Therefore they used these links to portray negative feelings about gay
and lesbian people. However during the session both my colleague and myself
realised that it was more a case of homophobia, which is the ‘fear’ of same
sex relations. They had never had
any contact with anyone that was gay, yet they spoke in way, which gave me the
impression of such hatred. It was
quite apparent that we were not going to change how they think about gay and
lesbian people, but we were able to make them stop and think about the
oppression felt by these people. This
was because most of them had been oppressed in one form or another, also they
realised that in order for them to be professionals in this field then they must
be non judgemental towards others.
whole study I feel that I was right in organising the community interpreters
course. This is because I have
helped some members of the Bangladeshi community to find employment within the
interpreting field. There are two
members who attended the course and are now employed by the Medway Bangladeshi
Centre as interpreters during advice sessions and as interpreters for teachers
who find it difficult in communicating with parents who speak no English.
There is one person who has a Diploma from Bangladesh and this course has
prompted him to take a higher interpreting course, which involves translating
and being able to read and write in the language you are going to be translating
In conclusion I
feel that I have able to help this community because there are obvious signs
from the community members that they are getting their needs met and that they
are beginning to develop and move forward.
This is because they are beginning to use the facilities provided for
them and they are beginning to want other things to help them move forward, such
as computing and further English courses.
I have also
gained a great deal of learning from being with this community and the multiple
oppressions they are faced with.
Patel & Student Youth Work Online 2001