We Too Built Britain
1931. Zehra Zaidi
Zehra Zaidi, from Gloucestershire, is a lawyer who has campaigned to improve the representation of British people from ethnic minority backgrounds on civic symbols such as statues and legal tender, and founded 'We Too Built Britain' following the Brexit referendum to create a greater sense of cohesion and belonging in society, showcase diversity, and ensure people from under-represented groups see themselves represented in British institutions.
In 2020, Zehra helped design with the Royal Mint a “Diversity Built Britain” 50 pence coin acknowledging the contributions made by ethnic minority communities in the UK, of which over 2.5 million coins entered circulation. The subsequent “Hidden Heroes” campaign called on MPs from every constituency to ask local people to nominate lesser-known heroes who deserve to be remembered with a statue. She has also worked with the sculptor Harry Gray on the Covid Star People’s Medal and with various community groups and MPs on a proposal for an artwork in Parliament to honour key workers who served the nation during the pandemic, as well as a forest of remembrance memorial.
Most recently, Zehra has launched at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show the first official rose dedicated to an ethnic minority person in the UK as a symbol of friendship, community and tolerance. John Ystumllyn was the first well-documented black person in North Wales and one of Britain’s first black gardeners. Together with Harkness Roses, she also launched “We Too Planted Britain”, a community gardening scheme to improve community connections and mental health following the pandemic, and has supported hundreds of allotments, community gardens and charity gardens all over the country. The rose has just been planted at Buckingham Palace with praise from The Queen, and with representatives from community garden groups in attendance.
In addition to these campaigns, in August 2021 Zehra co-founded ‘Action for Afghanistan’ to help resettle Afghan refugees, and act as a cross-party virtual think tank on humanitarian action, the rights of women and minority groups, and resettlement. She is currently helping cross-party MPs launch an APPG for Afghan Women and Girls, as well as an advisory group of Afghan and South Asian women in collaboration with the Foreign, Commonwealth ad Development Office and parliamentarians.
“It’s a huge honour to be recognised for my humanitarian work and campaigns with ‘We Too Built Britain’ to bring people together. I am proud of the John Ystumllyn Rose launched to symbolise friendship, community and tolerance and the community gardening scheme created to promote community connections and mental health. I hope this recognition raises awareness and gets even more people involved.”
Pictured: Zehra with the John Ystumllyn Rose (Photo Credit Kirsty O’Connor/PA)