A BRADFORD woman who leads sessions on racial equality at Leeds Trinity University has spoken of her own experiences of racism - and on what lessons we can learn as we move forward - as we mark one year since the murder of George Floyd.

Dr Nadira Mirza, who is also the deputy chair of Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, says that last year's events - in which Floyd, a black man, was killed by white police officer Derek Chauvin - highlighted how "racism still seems to be ingrained in society".

Dr Mirza says that racism is not a new issue, adding that she faced her own struggles when she first moved to Bradford as an academic in the late 1970s - at a time when South Asian women like herself were "rarely seen" in higher education settings.

Born in Pakistan, Dr Mirza moved to London at 16, before arriving in Bradford when she was 20, for a three-year research project in community development - with a particular focus on South Asian women and girls.

She has since been a dean of the University of Bradford, as well as its director of community engagement, in a career spanning 40 years.

Yesterday, Dr Mirza participated in an online event, hosted by Leeds Trinity University, reflecting on the last year, which has seen conversations on race propelled back into the spotlight

"The death of George Floyd was not an isolated incident, and Covid has also highlighted many of the inequalities in our society - that's why I think the event was very timely", she said.

"We wanted to show how important it is for universities to make sure we recruit fairly, and that students should have a curriculum which highlights the achievements and writings of people from their communities and backgrounds, too. I also think we need to teach history in a more open and unbiased way - at school level especially, that's very important.

"The Government's values around social mobility need to be something which black and Asian students have open to them as well."

Although she has had a successful career, Dr Mirza's path was not the easiest to walk, she explains.

"When I first moved to Bradford, in 1979, you didn't see many black or Asian people in the city centre. I was the first female, Asian action research youth worker here", she said.

"People had stereotypes and assumptions about me - the classic was when I told a careers teacher I wanted to go to university. She said 'no, you can't, girls like you will just be getting married off'. But when I talk to students now, they say they are still getting those reactions.

"Minority communities have put down roots here, and see Britain as home. Back when I first came, we were seen as immigrants just passing through - but some of that still exists today.

"It's emotional, but it's also factual , so you have to think of ways you can hold the perpetrators of racism to account, and ensure it doesn't happen again, whether it's institutional or racism on a personal level.

"If we make a personal commitment, then the collective commitment can bring about change. Just talking about these issues can have a big impact."