National Inclusion Week is an annual event raising awareness of the significance of having a diverse and included workforce. This year’s theme is 'Everyday Inclusion: Celebrate and Inspire'.
During National Inclusion Week I am very keen to share my experience and encourage colleagues to share theirs in a safe environment.
I became involved with Civil Service Local as the lead for our Diversity and Inclusion Network to raise awareness and address the issues around diversity and inclusion.
I came to the UK in 2007 and moved to Glasgow in 2011. Although I felt that I was ready for the challenges in life, I was unaware that there could be cultural challenges which I needed to confront and face as they came. There was an extremely traumatic experience where my identity and ethnicity were not accepted.
I can still recall that evening when my younger brother and I went for a walk in the West End of Glasgow - the poshest area of Glasgow, when we heard someone shout ‘Paki bashing’. Being a big sister I very quietly said to my brother to pass by quickly and ignore what was being said. My brother listened to what I advised and we kept walking towards the main road seeking escape from that person.
Now I think perhaps I shouldn’t have ignored such discrimination, although sometimes I think it might be the best way in a vulnerable situation when at that moment in time you just want to keep yourself safe. In these situations your mind races with anxious thoughts: why I am not accepted? Why am I being insulted and humiliated due to my colour, race and different ethnicity?
My plight did not end there although taking big steps to seek refuge, it took me no time to realise that the person who was verbally abusing us was now trying to attack us from behind and then in an instant I felt a strange mixture of feelings. I felt so terrified, scared, insecure, vulnerable and shocked. I saw something I never wished to see, the same person head butt my younger brother and badly assault him.
Eventually, the perpetrator was imprisoned. My brother was left with injuries. Thank goodness he recovered from this physical assault. The emotional injuries we both received through that incident are still very painful but make me more passionate to challenge and confront behaviours and actions which are not acceptable in our society.
This traumatic experience left me with so many fears and insecurities when going out, especially to the area where this incident happened. I would always look for an alternative route in order to avoid that place, I did not rest until all my family members were home safe but it did not deter my resolve and hopes for a better and more secure life in Scotland.
I made friends and got to know many nice people and did my best to stay strong by not letting my experience have any negative impact on my life. My current role as a Presenting Officer gives me an opportunity to contribute and pay back to the country which accepted me when I needed it most. I come from a very diverse team and I feel included and welcomed.
This year's theme of National Inclusion Week will recognise the resilience that immigrants around the world show and help us walk in solidarity with them by appreciating our differences. I am a firm believer that an individual should not be defined by the colour of their skin, country they come from or their accent. Character, values, humility, care and compassion and their impact towards the community, society and country matter most.
My question today is what part can you play as a civil servant to make a difference at your workplace, challenging the discriminatory behaviours and attitudes that are not acceptable?
Our network is looking to increase membership. If you are interested in joining, please get in touch with a brief summary of what you could bring to the network by contacting me firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also have similar networks around the country, if you are interested in joining any of these please email the contact in your locality.