Celebrating Pride. Palladium’s proud contributions to advancing the rights of gender and sexual minorities throughout the world
Palladium’s Ryan Ubuntu Olson shares his thoughts on Pride 2017, and the path so many organisations are travelling to make gender and sexual rights an integral aspect of inclusive development.
During the month of June, Pride was commemorated throughout the world to celebrate and affirm the lives of gender and sexual minorities (GSM). Gender and sexual minorities are those whose gender or sexuality fall outside of what is typically expected in a given society. While many may identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Intersex (LGBTI), not all whom benefit from the advancement of rights, obligations and responsibilities related to gender and sexual diversity necessarily use an LGBTI identity throughout the world, or may choose to use other terminology.
The history of Pride
A dedicated day to celebrate Pride was born in the United States after an uprising of young LGBTI people against police brutality at a New York City bar in 1969. The day now serves as an ode to the freedoms that have been fought for, and realised, by activists throughout the world. The day also serves as a reminder of the continued struggle gender and sexual minorities face the world over to achieve full equality and recognition. Some celebrate through pride parades and parties, while others struggle simply to be recognised and acknowledged as fellow human beings by their society and governments.
Our history of Pride
As we pause to reflect on the meaning of this month, it has given me some pride to look at Palladium’s own work, which for decades has contributed in small and big ways to building a more inclusive world that values and respects gender and sexual diversity. Whether through overt and sustained projects directly addressing GSM (gender and sexual minority) issues, or by integrating the needs of GSM into our broader portfolio of projects, Palladium has used helped to advance these causes.
These contributions have come in multiple forms, often supporting local communities and organisations who work to advance these causes. Our project activities have helped to provide critical services to vulnerable communities, helped local advocates identify and overcome legal barriers and provided redress to those who have been harmed by the abuse of their rights. We have worked within hospitals, alongside government officials, religious leaders, international bodies and donor agencies to enhance their understanding of gender and sexual diversity; as well as partnering with local champions to build the capacity of the GSM community to advocate for policy change. Our ultimate goal, and that of our many partners, is to ensure that all people can love who they love, and be all of who they really are.
A global movement for change – public and private
Of course the pursuit of GSM rights is being enthusiastically led by organisations all over the world. Our clients are also leading on issues of gender and sexual diversity. Governments and private foundations have all demonstrated a commitment to advancing the rights of gender and sexual minorities; often as a part of their overarching strategic initiatives to reduce poverty, improve health outcomes or create sustainable governance structures. All see the imperative of including diverse groups of individuals to ensure their initiatives are successful. They also understand that tackling the needs of the most marginalised and vulnerable populations is at the root of helping to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems. Supporting the rights of gender and sexual minorities isn’t a single-issue niche, it’s a central part of inclusive development.
Several donors in the international development industry are prioritising action in this area. The UK, for example, has committed to leaving no one behind in response to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This declaration ensures that the rights and needs of gender and sexual minorities are integrated into all programmes funded by UK aid, not just those projects specific to the GSM community. USAID has also developed an LGBT Vision for Action which highlights the right for people to live in dignity, free from violence, and ensures that LGBTI people are not left out of US-funded development. Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has committed to formalising diversity and inclusion training for all its staff. In addition, most of the world’s fortune five hundred companies have adopted policies which protect the rights of their LGBTI employees. Beyond their policy infrastructure, governments and corporations are committing millions of dollars to support and build civil society organisations to advance the rights of gender and sexual minorities.
My experience of an inclusive culture
It is undoubtedly the co-created environment amongst Palladium staff that has allowed our project activities to be so successful. Many of our global contributions to advancing the rights of gender and sexual minorities emanate from employees who themselves are also gender and sexual minorities. Equally, many ‘out and proud’ Palladium staff have worked for the organisation for many years and been behind some of the most successful projects in our history, regardless whether or not they link directly to gender or sexual diversity. These twin principles of inclusivity and ‘diversity as normal’ have helped to shape a culture that encourages others to bring their whole selves to the workplace. In addition, many supportive staff have served as allies, bringing attention to these issues as they build interventions and design projects.
Colleagues from gender and sexual minorities are but one part of the diverse range of individuals working for Palladium, and who come to work each day to address the myriad issues facing the complex world in which we all live and work. It is through their bold and courageous actions to bring all of who they are to the workplace that we can have honest and open conversations about how to make the world a better place for all communities, including gender and sexual minorities. Ultimately it is through the lived experience of so many gender and sexual minorities around the world with whom we have worked closely, that we have been able to design projects that ensure no one is left behind.