Manchester’s Bad B*tches Breaking Barriers

Author: Shafia Khatun; BSc Criminology and Sociology with Quantitative Methods, Manchester Metropolitan University.

After an eye-opening visit to the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre and Education Trust, as part of my ‘Delivering Justice for Women’ unit at Manchester Metropolitan University; I was inspired to reflect on inequalities faced by global majority women.  I received a group tour of the archive and library space, the digital exhibition space, an introduction into the collections and how to access them. 

As someone identifying as part of this group, I have never felt Feminism really reflected my experiences and struggles as a woman of colour. Nor do I see myself in representations of influential women taught in schools, memorialised as statues or placed in museums. Until my visit, I was unaware and uneducated of the impact women like me had on positive change in Manchester. Only through exploring the Centre was I able to broaden my understanding, knowledge and perspective, realising the barriers they faced are similar to those I have witnessed myself. Thus, this blog is an expression of gratitude to these inspirational women and delivering justice for them by telling their stories…

When reflecting on Manchester and its relation to women’s activism, thoughts automatically drift to Emmeline Pankhurst and women’s suffrage. Not only did she challenge the patriarchal system by forming a women-only union (WSPU), but she also actively engaged in “radical” actions, encouraging women to pursue basic rights (Paganelli, 2019). However, Olufemi (2020) describes how when fighting for their rights, white, middle-class, educated women believed their right to vote was more important than that of black men, as well as black and other global majority women.

Therefore, historical roots of Feminism are based on this ideology, meaning that strategies, aims and goals of mainstream Feminism revolve around this group to the exclusion of others (Hooks, 2015). As a result, the names, stories and impacts of ethnic women have gone under-appreciated. When challenging social injustices and breaking barriers, these women also had to combat racial discrimination along the way (The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre and Education Trust, 2022). Here these women are be highlighted as a tribute to their contribution: #LearnTheirNames.

Figure 2: GB3228.73/1/6/22, Photograph of a Labour Party meeting in Rochdale where notable figures showed support for the local candidate, including Gerald Kaufman MP and Anwar Ditta, 11 Jun 1987.

A woman fighting for equality, for herself and her family. A resilient warrior who won a 6-year long battle against the Home Office in the 1980s, denying the entry of her children (Knight, 2021). A woman who stopped at nothing, bulldozing through institutional racism that resided in the country’s immigration laws. Even with the family’s reunification, she continued to challenge the societal injustices by engaging in a campaign (ADDC) to tackle cases just like hers, standing in solidarity with others facing inequality and injustice.

The campaign was so strong, and the determination of Ditta even stronger, leading to the production of her own documentary, showcasing the evidence and hard truths, which ultimately catalysed the overturning of the Home Office decision. Ditta’s case highlights Hooks’ (2015) idea of a common misconception of mainstream Feminism, that the traditional motherly role in the home oppresses women. Here, it is clear here that Ditta’s family was at the core of her campaign and triggered her fight for change

Anwar Ditta – “The legal system was so against my name and my case. They just threw everything out… I had no choice but to campaign.”

Zemmel (2019)

Figure 3: Photograph of Locita Brandy at a carnival .(GB3228.10/5/3, Photographs, photograph of Locita Brandy, 2000-2001

A woman whose life was shaped by experiences of hostility and racism. A woman calling for the end to discriminatory structures in Britain enabling racist riots 1958, through the establishment of the first British Carnival (Gewirtz-O’Reilly, 2020). Brandy founded the MAPCA that organised and led a parade using nostalgic pieces of the Caribbean and West Indian culture, to celebrate their heritage and create a sense of community. This form of resistance tackled the misinformed representations and shifted power from the dominant group in society (white males) and into the hands of ethnic women.

The significance of the Carnival is a compelling symbol of anti-racism, recognition, and the commemorative history of Britain’s black community that continues to take place annually. Locita’s work did not end there. She later became a Labour politician in Manchester, where she gained authority to influence politics. Thus, Brandy played an integral role in the celebration of black culture, creating a sense of pride and family, whilst also driving forward implemental changes to improve the lives of disadvantaged individuals in Manchester through policy making.

Figure 4: Logo of women’s group (Ananna webiste, 2024)

A group of women originally seeking justice for the racist murder of Ahmed Iqbal Ullah in 1986 and the miscarriage of justice that followed. The Manchester Bangladeshi Women’s Organisation formed a powerful establishment, fighting for the rights of the Bangladeshi community through a strong, supported and collective voice (The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre and Education Trust, 2022). Their work continues, the collaborative work of females with a shared identity, and other disadvantaged backgrounds, to succeed and benefit together, whilst also striving for positive change regarding social injustices.

Their advocacy is needed as a result of the intersection between both sexism and racism that is present today, limiting the capability and succession of global majority women (Crenshaw, 2016). Focused on tackling inequalities, like lack of support for domestic abuse survivors or mental health awareness for survivors in these communities, as their needs differ to what is provided for white women due to cultural and religious differences. Their work continues to help women and girls in Manchester to this day.

“A group for women, led by women.”

(Ananna website, 2024)

Ultimately, my visit to the RACE centre archives highlighted the importance of recognition for ALL women who have made a significant, positive change in society, whether it be in Manchester, the UK or internationally. All women are deserving of equal acknowledgement for their efforts, regardless of their race, ethnic origin or any other socio-demographic factors…

For more information about these women, and other global majority women who fought for change, visit:

*Disclaimer: the blog uses the term ‘b*tches’ to reclaim a word typically used in a derogatory or demeaning way towards women. However, in this context, and more commonly in contemporary society, it is used to empower and uplift women.

Reference list:

Cover images left to right:

1.GB3228.73/1/6/22, Photographs of a Labour Party meeting in Rochdale to show support for Labour Party candidate for Parliament David Williams. At the meeting were notable figures showing support for the local candidate including Gerald Kaufman MP and Anwar Ditta, 11 Jun 1987.

2.Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre and Education Trust library space, 2014.

3.GB3228.73/1/6/23, Anwar Ditta Collection, Photograph of Anwar Ditta at a gathering [possible newspaper launch] handing out a newspaper, n.d. c.1980s

The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre and Education Trust (2022) Women’s Activism in Our Archives. [Online] [Accessed on 12th January 2024]

The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre and Education Trust (2020) Locita Brandy – Founder of Manchester Carnival. [Online] [Accessed on 11th March 2024]

Ananna. (2024) A group for women, led by women. [online] [Accessed on 13th January 2024]

Gewirtz-O’Reilly, E. (2020) The Beginnings of Manchester’s Caribbean Carnival. History@Manchester. [Online] [Accessed on 13th January 2024]

Hooks, B. (2015) Ain’t I a woman: Black women and Feminism. New York, NY: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.

Hooks, B. (2015) Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center. Third Edition. New York, NY: Routledge.

Knight, B. (2021) Anwar Ditta: The mother who took on the UK government and won. Al Jazeera. [Online] [Accessed on 12th January 2024]

Olufemi, L. (2020) Feminism, interrupted: disrupting power. London: Pluto Press (Outspoken).

Paganelli, C. (2019) Inspiring Thursday: Emmeline Pankhurst. Wave. [Online] [Accessed on 12th January 2024]  

TEDx Talks. (2016) The urgency of intersectionality [Online video] [Accessed on 4th November 2023] Zemmel, S. (2019) Anwar Ditta Campaign The extraordinary tale of a mother’s courage. [Leaflet] Manchester: Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre and Education Trust.