Remarkable Women: Jayaben Desai

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.

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