Sado Jirde, the Director of the Black South West Network (BSWN) delivered a hard-hitting keynote at the recent West of England Development Conference, decrying systemetic discrimination: “There is an entrenched inequality, and deep seated, cultural, structural system at play that places barriers in the way of all people having the same chances and the fair distribution of dividends across society.”

Enduring racial and socio-economic segregation in Bristol was emphasised by Jirde who described the city as being “spatially segregated”. Bristol was a pivotal city in the British civil rights movement for being the site of the 1963 Bristol Bus Boycott, which lead to the passing of the 1968 Race Relations Act which banned discrimination in housing. 

Jirde cited the fact that “60% of Bristols BME community live in the most disadvantaged wards” which are among the most deprived in the country, whilst the 6 predominantly White British areas were amongst the most affluent. Higher levels of unemployment, less skills and worse health outcomes are also faced by residents in the less affluent areas of Bristol, which has been ranked 7th worse for inequality as a district. 

Jirde was positive about the achievements and possibilities for the West of England region saying that “We are lucky to be living and working in an area with potential such as the West of England has.” She praised the creative, digital and high tech industries that the region has attracted, highlighting the intersection of these modern industries with traditional industries as demonstrating the strength of the region.                

However Jirde couched this with the necessity of fairly distributing that economic potential , she said “It is clear now once the growth is achieved the priority is making sure the growth is achieved equally.” 

The BSWN is working on developing an institution to close this divide, working with local government and business, Jirdie said  “At the core of a long-term economic inclusion strategy is the development of a BME enterprise and impact hub which will incubate and grow BME lead businesses across the region’s priority sectors and develop international links through the 147 diaspora communities that live in Bristol”

Jirde concluded with a message to delegates, emphasising the need to not let these issues fall to the wayside: “I urge you to work with us, I urge you to always consider the inequality I’ve described this morning in your strategic thinking and business planning, I urge you to place inclusion at the heart of everything you do and not just a separate strand of your work.”