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Kashmir Development Foundation

The Kashmir Development Foundation (KDF) worked with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to encourage more Kashmiris to take part in Census 2021.

We wanted Census 2021 to be the most inclusive census yet. To make sure this happened, we worked with representatives from organisations across England and Wales. Partnerships like these were important in raising awareness of the census.

One of these organisations was the KDF. Their mission is to support members of the Kashmiri community living and working in the UK.

The British Kashmiri Identity Campaign

Sardar Aftab Khan from the KDF coordinated the British Kashmiri Identity Campaign (BKIC), which encouraged Kashmiris to take part in Census 2021. He told us why this campaign was so important.

“Census data is a vital information source for the British Government and local councils to allocate budget and resources for different areas based on the proportion of the population. Local councils will look at 2011 and 2021 data and see how it has changed. They will use this information to design and deliver services that meet the needs of our community. To plan upfront you need to know how many people there are in your community and what their needs are. It is difficult to argue for more services if you are missing from the data. And that is the biggest challenge for the Kashmiri Community.”

The importance of the census to local communities

The census provides vital information that policy makers, businesses, charities and local government can use to help plan services that matter to everyone. Having the right census data is crucial to delivering health services, language centres and adult social care. It also adds to the understanding of educational achievements from primary school age through to GCSEs.

“You do not know who your customers are if those things are not identified,” Aftab’s colleague Adeel Khan said. “Once projects start, public consultations happen and suddenly you find out 100,000 people have not been factored in whose requirements are totally different. That is why inequalities exist for communities like ours.”

Painting a picture of the Kashmiri community

The BKIC is now hopeful Census 2021 will provide useful data and a better picture of the Kashmiri community across England and Wales.

“We did that in a pandemic and had to adapt,” Adeel said. “From our experience, face-to-face meetings at venues like mosques, lunch clubs, sports and cultural events weren’t happening. We were not able to do that. But we used social media. Instead of pounding the streets and meeting a few people, we were able to target people and groups, we were able to target our words. We were able to look at it a lot more strategically. We had to do the campaign in a different way.”

And they did their best to make sure no one was missed out.

“Everything was online because of the pandemic, and it worked for us,” Adeel said. “But for those we weren’t able to reach, elderly people perhaps not as electronically savvy, we did things like leaflet drops at mosques.”

Using print and digital media

The KDF created a BKIC website (opens in a new tab)  and social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. BKIC targeted social media posts that reached tens of thousands of people in England. One of these was a viral post on TikTok that reached over 90,000 people, containing a message from a 92-year-old member of the Kashmiri community in Rochdale, Mrs Sarwar Jan.

In total, BKIC created 136 products, from leaflets and social media posts to video assets. Their message appeared on radio adverts across the country as well as more than 30 television programmes.

“We used what the ONS gave us,” Adeel said. “We were given the gift of the name Kashmiri on the search-as-you-type option in the online census. We used that strategically to tell people it’s going to be easier to fill in the form. You typed KAS and the drop-down enabled you to choose Kashmiri that way. That was one of the most encouraging things for us.”

Raising awareness and engaging with communities

Working with the BKIC, we helped to reach more people and ensured a successful campaign. More than 60 volunteers, community leaders, professionals and a network of local community groups actively supported BKIC to raise awareness and take part in the census.

At the ONS, we’re building on this important work. Since census collection ended, we’ve continued to connect and develop relationships with representatives of groups who may engage less with data and statistics. We’ve stayed in touch with the KDF, engaging with them on census outputs and other ONS work. This will mean that everyone can use and understand the statistics they helped create.