The only way is up!

27 Sep

Did you know that blind people in Belgrade dance the night away in their own club? And that there are not enough talking traffic lights, signs in braille or other infrastructural improvements to help them find their way? Neither did I. But thanks to the participants of the Diversity 2.0 workshop, which Jamila Aanzi and I hosted at Cultural Center Grad in Belgrade last week, we found out a lot about blind people. And about students, senior citizens and other “others” the workshop participants interviewed on the street. The point of this 3-day masterclass, organised in partnership with Felix Meritis, was to raise awareness on the impact of inclusion. Who are we missing and what can we do to reach them? In order to answer those questions, we need to get out of our comfort zone and pro-actively look for “the other”. Reach out and ask them about their lives, their passions, their needs. Build empathy and understanding, so we can create innovative inclusive solutions that help us broaden our scope. Not because it’s “politically correct” to involve blind people, senior citizens, women or migrants, but simply because inclusion pays off. After all, diversity, if managed properly, brings substantial potential benefits such as better decision making and improved problem solving, creativity and product development, and more successful marketing to different types of audiences.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Too bad too many decision makers are not quite aware of the impact of inclusion. Old boys networks still seem to rule the world. Women, people with a physical handicap, migrants, senior citizens and other “others” are stuck behind glass ceilings, brick walls and closed doors. What to do? How can we make sure the outsiders are being seen and heard?
Tonight, Women Inc presented a talkshow on lists. Each year, feminist magazine Opzij publishes a list of the 100 most powerful women of the Netherlands, to highlight the achievements of women, all too often overlooked by mainstream media. Great, right? But where are the colorful women, thought Raja Felgata. Only 10 of the 100 women on the list were not white. Raja decided to make her own list, featuring 101 colorful powerladies. I’m proud to say I’m on it, right below Princess Maxima. Raja wanted a list that was a more realistic reflection of today’s colorful society. Besides, power can be defined in many different ways. Raja’s women are movers and shakers in many different domains, from politics to culture, science to sports. Let’s hope soon, we will not need lists of powerful women, colorful or not. Cause whether the old boys want it or not, we’re coming. If you listen carefully, you can hear us knocking. And we will keep on knocking till we are being heard and seen. After all, the only way is up!

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