Remarkable Women: Jayaben Desai
This #InternationalWomensDay we’ll be taking a look back at its historical origins, and women throughout history who’ve fought for the rights of other workers.
Born in North-Western India, Jayaben Desai moved to Tanzinia, until like many East-African Asians, her and her husband were expelled and fled to Britain.
Though they’d previously had a comfortable lifestyle and were well educated, on arrival to the UK Jayaben faced discrimination in the jobs market, and became a sewing machinist in a Harsleden sweatshop.
After the birth of her children, she instead became an employee at the Grunwick mail-order film processing factory. The all White factory management deliberately hired new migrants, as they felt that they could exploit this workforce. Staff were treated terribly. Jayaben and her co-workers led a strike. By 1977, up to 20,000 people a day were marching in solidarity with migrant workers.
“We have shown that workers like us, new to these shores, will never accept being treated without dignity or respect. “
She continued to sew, teaching for the Brent Indian Association, and creating a South Asian dressmaking course at Harrow College.