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From Alum Rock to Oxford University – Erdington’s Suriyah Bi Campaigns for Equality and Renewal

Fly tips and garbage on the street, lack of police presence that allows crime to thrive, and high levels of deprivation along the main street. These are three key issues facing Erdington residents in the run-up to next week’s local elections.

One person who hopes to solve these problems is Erdington’s Labor candidate Suriyah Bi – a 30-year-old graduate of Oxford University who grew up in Alum Rock. Suriyah has her work cut for her as she next month goes up against Secretary of State Robert Alden, leader of the Birmingham Conservative Party.

“I have seen inequality first hand. You can go from Alum Rock to Oxford University, but still be discriminated against for who you are and what your identity is. “

READ MORE: ‘I have nothing to do with the national side of the party’: The young Tory is vying to become a member of the council

Currently, Suriyah works as a university lecturer, and says that she and her deputy Basharat Dad have been out twice a day and knocked on doors every day for the past six weeks. After spending a lot of time campaigning, she feels the resources are not distributed fairly across the city.

“People are quite worried about how Erdington has deteriorated over time – they feel neglected. There is a concentration of investment in the city center, but not enough in local areas like Erdington.

“One of the first promises we have is to fight for the equalization fund to recreate Erdington High Street. I have also started a campaign called Erdington in Bloom, where I, every time I am right outside the door, take pictures of flowers and flowers to say “look, people take pride in living in Erdington”.

A rather remarkable journey into local politics has led Suriyah from living in a town hall in Alum Rock and receiving free school meals to obtaining a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oxford and a PhD. from University College London. Although she describes her journey as ‘the dream of social mobility’, it has not been without trials and tribulations. An incident in which Suriyah was discriminated against involved someone calling her ‘stupid’ simply because of her accent.

Suriyah, her deputy Basharat Dad and Erdington Labor Department chairman Mike Tooze campaigning in Erdington
Suriyah, her deputy Basharat Dad and Erdington Labor Department chairman Mike Tooze campaigning in Erdington

But Suriyah feels her background and life experience put her in a good position to represent Erdington residents, who face deprivation and discrimination on a daily basis.

A resident Suriyah spoke to recently says she is unable to take her child using a wheelchair into Erdington parks because they are not wheelchair accessible. Another said they could not access employment opportunities because they did not have a passport or driver’s license.

“Why do we not have a cheaper alternative image ID that people can afford and therefore can access employment opportunities?” asked Suriyah. “Just this morning I wrote an email to the Ministry of Labor and Pensions. The cost of living is rising – if a passport costs £ 90, how is it so affordable when people choose between heating their homes and eating? “

Suriyah says gender equality legislation in the UK at national level ‘requires a lot of work’. But looking more locally, she says Erdington needs more police on the street and fewer houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), of which she believes Erdington has had an ‘unfair share’.

To run against the leader of the Birmingham Conservative Party is an ambitious step, especially given that Erdington has not voted in a Labor councilor for over 15 years. But with Paulette Hamilton’s recent victory in the Erdington City election, Suriyah believes this could be the perfect time to strike.

Asked what she would do differently this time for Labor, Suriyah says: “The key for me is to listen and spend time. It’s easy to go door to door and put something in a letterbox, but we have knocked on every door. …

“I really want to be able to implement change, and you can only do that at grassroots level face to face by talking to the people who need the change the most. I want to not only win back the seat, but actually deliver for the area. ”

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