Cultural Diversity Day
Each year on May 21, the United Nations acknowledges World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. The day was officially launched in 2002 and this year we’ll be looking at it in light of recent world events, as people worldwide deal with many challenges including the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why is it important to celebrate World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development?
The purpose of international days and weeks is to educate the public on issues, to address global problems, and to celebrate achievements. Awareness days can no doubt be powerful tools for advocacy but many of these days lack real meaning unless action is being taken.
There are countless diversity awareness days that take place throughout the year. If there is an issue you’re particularly passionate about, there may be an opportunity to bring it up to your workplace. Many organisations have employee diversity networks or specific diversity training. If your organisation doesn’t have either of these, you may be able to take action by suggesting how they can get involved, host an event, get enrolled in a programme, or simply have more open conversations.
What is Vandu Languages doing to encourage cultural diversity and support communities?
Vandu Languages invests in each of our translators, interpreters and bilingual advocates by giving them the training they need to succeed. Our sister company, Diversity Resource International, offers dedicated training for the UK and international organisations to embrace diversity and inclusion within their workforce. DRI also helps individuals from diverse backgrounds to access services they need, develop their skills, find employment, earn qualifications, get work experience and start their own businesses.
Founder of both Vandu Languages and DRI, Mebrak Ghebreweldi, shares her thoughts below on the value that cultural diversity brings and the challenges faced by communities worldwide—especially in light of current world events like the Black Lives Matters movement and COVID-19.
What are the benefits of cultural diversity in the workplace and wider communities?
From my experience in the UK for the last 28 years, cultural diversity is a driving force of the UK’s economic, cultural, social, and educational development. Not only with respect to economic growth but also as a means of living a diverse, colourful and more fulfilling intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual life. Generations of migrants from across the world provide a solid basis for the promotion of cultural diversity.
From your perspective, what impact has COVID-19 had on minority communities over the past twelve months?
The COVID-19 lockdown has exposed inequalities in western health services, social care, and society in general. Also, the brutal killing of George Floyd and many other black youngsters by the American police shocked us to the core. The last minutes of George Floyd’s life and how it ended with “I can’t breathe” horrified us all. Tragically, millions of people died because they couldn’t breathe due to COVID-19. Both events have provided us with an opportunity for deep reflections and to pose questions about what matters most. Both events teach us all to reflect and respect our racial, cultural, economic, political and social existence. Equality of sharing resources, knowledge and health is the way forward.
As an Eritrean who has witnessed the bitter struggle for equality and equity for the last sixty years, those exposed inequalities in health and social care in the global North, and the death of many Eritreans and ethnically diverse frontline workers in the UK, has brought strong flashbacks of Eritrean people’s struggle for freedom. People in Eritrea were not able to make use of their own national resources due to western-imposed economic sanctions
Once again, time has affirmed that we have no choice but to fight to eradicate racism, colonialism, discrimination, and disparities in opportunities.
What are your thoughts on World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development?
One has to think deep to celebrate the UN’s cultural diversity day. To me, as a woman from Africa and living in the UK, I need to feel if I can honestly give meaning to this day—as it should be a very important day worth celebrating. There are many World Heritage sites that we should be bringing awareness to, for example, Asmara in Eritrea— it has a unique collection of art-deco architecture from the 20th century— and has now been recognized as a UNESCO site.
Not only should we bring broader awareness to World Heritage sites, but to the people suffering due to the lack of peace and economic development in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Palestine, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Congo, Sudan, Nigeria, Chad, Somalia, Yemen, India, Burma, and many more places. When peace and development are not experienced equally, how can each nation’s diversity and culture be celebrated equally across the globe?
Why is it so important for people to keep connections with their home country and embrace diverse cultures?
To us—people of different languages, many cultural layers, and rich identities— COVID-19 lockdown has also provided an opportunity to recognise why we are so connected to our homeland. What it means to have relatives far away or ageing parents and how our history anchors who we are today. We’ve kept connected with our land and the culture of the ancestors, friends and families through long chats on WhatsApp, Zoom and whatever else, all to remain as connected as possible to our diverse cultures.
How can cultural diversity lead to economic empowerment today and in the future?
When I open my kitchen cupboards here in the UK, I find diversity and culture inside the shelves. A lot of produce from the global South is superior to the global North such as sugar, tea, coffee, bananas oranges, dates, nuts, mangos and chocolates.
Cultural diversity is an asset that is indispensable for poverty reduction and the achievement of sustainable development. Change is coming because the younger generation of the developed world don’t like how humankind is treating each other and want a fairer world. While citizens of the global South are on a journey to embrace their cultural diversity and are proud of becoming the owners and primary users of their God-given resources. We are going to see peoples’ movement for a better world, and no one will be able to stop this mass movement for equality and fairness.
At Vandu Languages, we work with people from across diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds and believe there’s power in connecting our communities. Feel free to contact us to learn about our translation, interpreting, and bilingual advocacy services.