Each of us has questions and statements in mind, but we are unable to express them at all times. Thirteen years ago, when I began my journey as a Consultant in Diversity and Inclusion in India, the very theme in itself was unheard of. I was forced to wear an armour during the initial training sessions, because I had sensed the possible psychological attacks when people are asked to change, especially when they do not see the need, or fear the loss of power. "You are asking me to change a system which is working perfectly fine for me, why should I do it?" "Why should I even spend time and energy listening to you?"
These are the natural and understandable sentiments of the dominant group, be it vis a vis gender, generation, orientation, culture, race, or ability. With such statements becoming rare these days, one would like to believe that there has been a rapid change in the mindset, and inclusion is being deemed as an inherent value and ability, however, the reality is starkly different.
According to the 2018 World Economic Forum Report, India ranks 108 among 149 countries vis a vis the Global Gender Gap, comparing parameters such as Economic Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment. The Global Gender Gap stands at 68%, indicating a 32% gap that remains to be closed. Till date no country has been able to achieve parity. The report says, "The progress toward parity continues to be very slow."
The World Bank data on Persons with disabilities (PwD) suggests that there are 40 to 80 million persons with disabilities in India. This means that we have one of the highest numbers of PwDs in the world. Out of the 13.4 million PwDs in India, in the employable age group of 15-59 years, 9.9 million were marginal or non-workers. This means that millions of disabled people are dependent on their families or social security. The inaccessible public transport, pavements, and buildings rob them of dignity, and prevents them from leading a barrier free life. While we have only considered two aspects of diversity, it does reflect that the pace of change is slow. Mere conversations do not represent actual change.
The reason for people not voicing the reluctance openly as compared to the earlier years is the buzz around Diversity and Inclusion. Government and organisations have begun talking about it loudly, and out of fear of appearing non- progressive, people have silently confined themselves to their comfort zone of non-inclusion, an indicator that not much has changed in reality. What can we do to catalyse this movement? The powerful way forward is to begin addressing the 'I' of Inclusion.
The only motivators of deep-rooted unconscious change are pleasure and pain. The fear of punishment or the anticipation of reward. What is in it for me?
Governments, Educational Institutes, Organisations, and Activists would need to use a combination of both. Under the 5 broad buckets of Inclusion - Social Justice, Organisational Development, Dignity, Competence, and Compliance, we can look for motivators and enforcers. Emphasis on individual and collective benefits through Training and Development of every person will ensure more people crossing the line from complacency to proactive willingness. A certain percentage which will need an approach of Compliance to prevent discrimination, thus tapping the massive buried potential of millions and moving the country toward authentic development. The "I" is the key!
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