I worked in an NGO for over a decade promoting the rights of people with intellectual disability in Helsinki, Finland. This work, led me to understand, that there are many persons who suffer from discrimination in the world, in Finland and outside. I had not reflected so much opon the reasons that made me feel very comfortable in an organization that promoted Human Rights and inclusion, but the answer is quite obvious.
During my life time, I have seen how outer or inner differences might effect and are effecting chances to be included in society. The road to getting to be a person who is valued and appreciated as their through selves is not always easy. We should not see people through the colour of their skin, disability, supposed gender or "difference", but through their unique personality and humanity.
What is inclusion? The Cambridge dictionary definition is: "the idea that everyone should be able to use the same facilities, take part in the same activities, and enjoy the same experiences, including people who have a disability or other disadvantage:"
Advocacy work, is talking about the change that needs to happen in our society so that everyone can be included and valued. It means giving space for persons to talk about situations and experiences that are not always positive. It means listening to stories, that are not comfortable to hear. It means thinking about, how Finland struggles with achieving social equality. It is acknowledging that exclusion, bullying and racism exists, between people, in structures, in (lacking) legislation, in organizations, and we have to open our eyes and act. It means programs, new legislation, awareness campaigns and supporting spoke persons and organizations who talk about this issues. We need to direct abundant resources to this work, if not, we cannot expect results.
As much as we talk about securing biodiversity for the planet, we often forget to value and appreciate the human differences, that are beautiful, important and quite a beautiful mystery.
So today, I raise my glass to the beauty of humanity. We should never cease to strive for a world were everyone feels appreciated, valued and loved.
On March 20th 2021, in Helsinki, Elina Sagne-Ollikainen
Member of Svenska Kvinnoförbundet i Sörnäs
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