Celebrating Diwali!

Our staff and students at UoR have shared their Diwali celebrations with us in this blog! 

 

NHSF Reading 

Diwali is a very important festival for me. This allows me and my family to be together and celebrate. Last year, for Diwali we put Diyas around the house and got some sparkles to play with in the garden. Additionally, at university we had a Diwali ball during my first year which made me realise that this festival allows people to unite and have fun. It was full of dancing and taking loads of pictures. 

– Saumya(Co-president) 

 

Diwali is a time where all of my extended family get together. We play games and eats lots of freshly prepared Indian snacks and sweets. 

– Raj(Co-president) 

 

Diwali for me is about spending time with my family eating Indian food, playing games and watching the fireworks.  Growing up in Leicester I was surrounded by the biggest Diwali celebrations outside of India, I am so grateful to have celebrated and still celebrate in such a huge manner. 

– Bhavani(Sewa and Sanskaar) 
 

For me Diwali is about spending time with family and friends. Me and my family celebrate it by lighting Diyas(candles) outside our house and eating plenty of Indian Sweets. During this time, we also do fireworks and make rangoli which is a special type of art using different colours of powders to make beautiful designs. 

– Priyan(secretary and media) 

 

 

This Diwali, light a candle for hope 

Santosh Sinha (Staff Engagement Manager; Co-Chair of BAME Staff Network) 

 

What a difference a year makes! 

Diwali (the Hindu festival of lights) feels much brighter this year. Earlier this week, I was taking my son for his taekwondo class when the sky lit up with colours and sounds of fireworks.  

I am sure that the private school, which put on this display, was either celebrating Guy Fawkes Night a bit early or trying to cheer up its pupils. However, for me – and to some extent, my son – fireworks at this time of the year mean that other are joining in, in the celebration of Diwali (though some Indian friends suspect that this year it might also be English and Pakistani cricket fans celebrating yet another disappointing performance by India at the T20 Cricket World Cup). 

There is something about the fireworks that cheers you up. Over the years, we have toned down our use of fireworks. As parents, a sparkler seems to be the safest device your child can handle and the rest has to be done in moderation to be a good neighbour. 

Unlike last year, when the celebration were non-existent, this year’s celebrations started over the weekend for us. We had invited some families for dinner and Diwali celebrations with us. With COVID19 continuing to cast a shadow, we had to go for a much smaller gathering that we are used to.  

It did feel like Diwali. We had sweets. We had terracotta lamps. We had firecrackers. But most importantly, we had friends to celebrate the day with – friends who understand how important Diwali is and how it brings people together. 

It was nearly two in the morning by the time we wrapped up, but the clocks were changing that night and we were able to gain an extra hour of sleep. Definitely my best Diwali gift ever! 

Tonight we will be setting out to be with our friends, who we have celebrated Diwali with every single year that we have known them. The children look forward to it every year, and we enjoy spending Diwali with friends who are almost family to us. 

My wife and I have been able to see our mothers after almost three years – she had to visit India to see hers and mine is visiting us at the moment.  

As I wrote last year, most of us were hoping to meet up “soon” while being acutely aware that “soon” may be months away. Increased vaccination and the easing travel restrictions mean that the hope is now a reality. 

So let’s light a candle tonight to hope that the next year is an even better year than this one! 

 

Happy Diwali!

Prof Vimal Karani S (Professor of Nutrigenetics & Nutrigenomics) 

http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/diversereading/files/2021/11/Diwali-2_Trim2_1-Prof-Vimal-Karani.mov 

 

 

 

Diwali – Celebrating The Light Within 

Shweta Band (Lecturer and PhD Candidate, School of Law) 

 

The fragrance of sandalwood incense sticks and listening to the song ‘Uthi uthi Gopala’ in the blissful voice of Pandit Kumar Gandharva ji, the doyen of Indian classical vocal music- this is my earliest memory of a Diwali morning growing up in India. It was a decades-old family ritual and something that I miss every year celebrating Diwali away from home. As immigrants from India, I always find myself making eager attempts to relive and recreate all cultural traditions and rituals as an experience-legacy for my children. But there’s something magical in celebrating Diwali back home- surrounded by family and amidst the millions of lights and colours everywhere!  

I’m sure you all know Diwali as portrayed by social media, but if you’ve ever wondered how an actual Diwali day in India looks like- join in this visual journey- from my Diwali trip to India in 2019 (something I had managed after eight long years).  

As we celebrate Diwali away from home every year, we try and live the beautiful spirit of the festival- of the value of celebrating with family and friends, of the joy of gifting, of being thankful to the wealth (in whatever form!) that life has given us and of the eternal hope that good triumphs over evil and light over darkness. Diwali isn’t just about the light from the sparkles of the diya-lamps, or the lanterns or from the firecrackers. On a spiritual level, Diwali is all about being enlightened by the light within! It’s a beautiful reminder that one whose heart is filled with light, will brighten all lives around! This is what I love about my favourite festival.  

So here’s the Diwali wish I leave you with –  

Roshan karo, roshan raho!  

May you spread the light. May you be the light!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All About Diwali

What is Diwali?  

Diwa, also known as Divali or Deepawali, is a festival celebrated by people of different faiths including Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Muslims and some Buddhists across the globe. 

Diwali originates from the Sanskrit word ‘deepavali’, which means ‘rows of lights’. 

Diwali is often referred to as the festival of lights. It celebrates the triumph of good over evil, and light over darkness, marking the start of the Hindu New Year. As one of the prominent festivals of India, celebrations take place together with family and friends, whilst new and old relationships are kindled through Indian sweets, delicacies and laughter.

 

When is Diwali?  

Diwali takes place over 5 days. The main festival day falls on a different date in the autumn each year, in line with the Hindu lunar calendar, in the Hindu lunar month Kartika. Usually, Diwali falls in October or November in the Gregorian calendar. This year, Diwali is on Thursday 04 November 2021. 

 

How is Diwali celebrated?  

Diwali is a five-day festival, with the height of the festival being celebrated on the third day, which is Thursday 04 November 2021. 

Preparations for the festival involve people cleaning and decorating their homes in the lead-up to the festival.  

Diwali is celebrated with joy, sweets, and also fireworks, string lights and candles. Many towns celebrate as a community by throwing parties. Traditional celebrations include lighting diyas (oil lamps) in workplaces and homes. Diyas are a guidance for Goddess Lakshmi to find her way home. They also act as a spiritual reminder that inner light can protect homes from spiritual darkness.  

Each day of Diwali has it’s own significance:  

Day 1, Dhanteras – Cleaning homes and shopping  

Day 2, Chhoti Diwali / Naraka Chaturdasi / Kali Chaudas  – Decorating homes with lamps and creating design patterns called rangoli using coloured powders or sand.  

Day 3, Diwali / Deepawali / Lakshmi Puja – The main day of the festival! Families and friends gather for prayers to Goddess Lakshmi, often followed by feasts and festivities – sometimes fireworks!  

Day 4, Govardhan Puja / Padva – The first day of the new year. Friends and families often visit each other with gifts and best wishes for the season.  

Day 5, Bhai Dooj / Yama Dwitiva – A day for brothers and sisters to honour one another. Siblings often pray for one another and participate in a ceremony called tilak. Often also followed by feats and festivities!  

  • Diwali Ball  

Date/Time: 25th November, 7pm-11pm
Location: 3sixty, Reading University Students’ Union 
Find out more by contacting NHSF Reading at nhsfreading@gmail.com  

 

 

Further Resources:  

Diwali.org – https://www.diwalifestival.org/ 

25 Facts About Diwali – https://parade.com/1116817/marynliles/diwali-facts/  

17 Indian Street Food Recipes – https://parade.com/843981/manuzangara/17-indian-street-food-recipes/ 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is STEM Racist and Sexist? Investigating why BAME Women get the Shortest End of the Stick

by
Reham ElMorally, PhD Candidate in International Development, SAPD
Billy Wong, Associate Professor, Institute of Education
Meggie Copsey-Blake, MA Education Graduate, Institute of Education

 

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) degrees and work environments were traditionally male dominated, as the belief that males have a higher capacity to rationalize and problem solve. Females, on the other hand, are perceived to have higher cognitive verbal abilities, stereotyping them as unsuitable to engage in public deliberation and better, thus supposedly they are better suited to dominate the private sphere. Throughout the past decades, not only was this hypothesis debunked by numerous scholars, particularly psychologists, but it was also rescinded as it was proven that females can have just as high, if not higher, cognitive functionality than males(Steward-Williams & Halsey, 2021). While the prejudicial and biased accounts of cognitive aptitudes have been challenged by the academics and scholars, the social cycle of female inferiority is still prevalent.  Furthermore, an archaic but dominant belief that people from minority ethnic backgrounds do not have an aptitude for STEM (MacDonald, 2014) can still be experienced in the labour market at worrying rates. This notion can be attributed to colonialism and imperialistic cultural exportation, it was perpetuated in the West by the White social hegemonic bloc to maintain White supremacy and protect the seemingly beneficiary status quo.

 

In the SESTEM research project, we analysed 69 interviews (51 minority ethni cand 18 White British students) from undergraduates in STEM degrees asking them to reflect on the racial and gender dynamics with their respective degrees.

 

In our previous publication ((Wong, ElMorally and Copsey-Blake, 2020 and  2021), the data revealed and supported a de facto institutional bias against minority ethnic students. This is manifested in terms of microaggressions, tokenism, and lack of substantive representative diversity in terms of faculty and staff. We examined the intersectionality of race and gender to better understand why minority ethnic students, specifically female students, are less likely to graduate with a 1st or 2:1 as compared to their White male counterparts, and also less likely to apply for STEM-related employment. The premise of our study is that women and ethnic minorities are subjugated to a variety of institutional and social barriers, including gender roles and expectations, and reproduced by the value for labor as commanded by the capitalist system embedded in the UK system.

 

Firstly, we investigated microaggressions students face during their studies. The literature supports that some microaggressions can result from a general disinterest in utilitarianism, which may include a heightened interest in profit. Other examples may include institutional and political agendas with capitalist objectives, where ethical questions such as effects on the environment and the social wealth distribution are simply irrelevant. However, for this research, microaggressions with a racial and gendered undertone are of interest. Microaggression can also manifest itself in terms of gender discrimination. Melony, a White British female, for example, discussed the gender role division in the STEM workplace:

‘I think, obviously you hear comments like sexist comments. When I was at work, one of the managers was saying, we have to go and lift something and they’re always like, we’ll get the boys together, lift it. The girls were always made to waitress, not be seeing out of the front, whereas the boys do the room service and things like that. There’s still like a pay gap and things.’

 

Secondly, we investigated institutional biases and their effects on student performance and predicted attainability of a STEM degree. We particularly examined how the lack of symbolic and substantive representation affects learning. We have found that an internalized sense of superiority and inferiority  exists among the students we interviewed. For example, Chetachi, a Black British male, felt that these negative stereotypes are not susceptible to change due to the lack of existing role models for Black students. Describing his experiences, Chetachi shared:

‘I barely see any black staff. There’s only one in [my department], and sometimes I ask myself, ‘How does he feel being the only black person in the whole building full of maybe Europeans and whites? How would you feel?’

 

He continued to add there is a lack of role models for black students to guide and substantially tip the scales in favour of ethnic minorities. Respectively, Katherine, a Black British female, touched upon the double-burden of being an ethnic minority and a woman, stating:

‘So many BAME students do come from a working-class background, not all of them, but it could be once again that just not relating to someone [other Black women]. Or maybe the institution itself, maybe, cos obviously uni is a middle-class institution, so it may be hard to just kind of reach to that level.’

 

These accounts led us to propose a more intersectional approach to race and gender mainstreaming at the university level to counteract the effects of historic marginalization and break the socialised inferiority-superiority cycle. We stress that a glass ceiling does exist for minority ethnic students which puts a barrier to entry and achievement. This ceiling is comprised of internalised emotions and unconscious biases towards ‘The Other and Otherhood’. The study also revealed how double-burden (Patimo and Pereio, 2017) of the Stereotype Threat (Dunderson and Li, 2020) negatively affect female minority ethnic students the most.

 

Our study negated the supposed biological predisposition of males and females, as well as reviewed the literature negating racial superiority in relation to cognitive aptitude. We exposed the shallow institutional efforts to appear diverse but in fact exploit tokenism to raise the profile of the institution. Sequentially, we recommend that Higher Education institutions must either substantially reform their approach to closing differential degree outcomes on the basis of race, as well as recognise the shortcomings of the institution in terms of its ‘zero-tolerance’ and ‘affirmative action’ efforts to provide minority ethnic students, especially female students, with a comparative advantage to counter historic, social, and institutional marginalisation. Should HE institutions fails to substantively reform their organisation, we propose that ‘Real-life sessions’, such as ‘Racism and Sexism in the work place’, ‘How to be assertive’, and ‘Your rights as an employee under UK law’, be streamlined and offered to all students, but particularly to ethnic minority ones. This is meant to prepare minority ethnic students for the barriers to entry and challenges they will inevitably face in the capitalist-labour market and improve their chances of success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References:

AdvanceHE (2020). Students statistical report 2020. Advance-HE, (accessed online):  https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/guidance/equality-diversity-and-inclusion/using-data-and-evidence/statistics-reports

Gunderson, L. & Li, G. (2020). Racist Stereotyping of Asians as Good at Math Masks Inequities and Harms Students. The Conversation, (accessed online): https://theconversation.com/racist-stereotyping-of-asians-as-good-at-math-masks-inequities-and-harms-students-132137

MacDonald, A. (2014). “Not for people like me?” Under-represented groups in science, technology and engineering. A Summary of the evidence: the facts, the fiction and what we should do next. WISE Campaign, (accessed online): https://www.wisecampaign.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/not_for_people_like_me-full-report.pdf

Patimo, R., and Pereiro, T.C. (2017). from the double role to the multiple burden of women: career or carer?. In Fussell, E. (Ed). Research in Progress Population, Environment, Health. (Italy: Cacucci Editore)

Stewart-Williams, S., & Halsey, L. G. (2021). Men, women and STEM: Why the differences and what should be done? European Journal of Personality35(1), 3 39. https://doi.org/10.1177/0890207020962326

Wong, B., ElMorally, R., & Copsey-Blake, M. (2021). ‘Fair and square’: What do students think about the ethnicity degree awarding gap? Journal of Further and Higher Education, https://doi.org/10.1080/0309877X.2021.1932773

Wong, B., R. ElMorally, M. Copsey-Blake, E. Highwood, and J. Singarayer. 2020. “Is Race Still Relevant? Student Perceptions and Experiences of Racism in Higher Education.” Cambridge Journal of Education. doi:10.1080/ 0305764X.2020.1831441.