The Parliamentarian 2022: Issue One: Reflecting on two years of the COVID-19

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COMMONWEALTH YOUTH VOICES: INCLUSIVE PARLIAMENTS FOR INCLUSIVE SOCIETIES

COMMONWEALTH YOUTH VOICES: INCLUSIVE PARLIAMENTS FOR INCLUSIVE SOCIETIES In recent years, advocacy and social movements surrounding equality, diversity and inclusion have largely been at the forefront of conversations worldwide. With movements such as #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter emphasising what is and isn’t acceptable in the modern age, it is important for societies to listen carefully and implement necessary changes at both micro and macro levels. When we discuss social change, we look to the ways in which cultural patterns and human interactions and relationships develop over time. With inclusive and progressive ways of thinking becoming prominent, these will in turn help transform the institutions and cultural norms that are dominant in societies. To put this in layman terms, change often starts with a thought, a shift in thinking which then leads to a change in action which in turn, impacts people’s lives and lived experiences. Through this, real tangible change occurs. So what roles do our Parliaments have to play in this? The Commonwealth, comprised of 54 countries across continents and even the remotest of regions, presents countless opportunities for listening and learning between Parliaments, Legislatures and societies to implement best practice when it comes to embedding inclusion and creating positive change. Our Parliaments are an integral part of our diverse societies with Members representing constituents, scrutinising, debating and legislating on behalf of the people. We must therefore ensure that our Parliaments themselves embody diversity and inclusion. Lessons from the UK Parliament The UK Parliament has been making great strides in recent years to ensure diversity and inclusion is embedded into both the House of Commons’ and the House of Lords’ administration strategies. This is seen in the “vision to create a workplace that is accessible, inclusive and innovative, enabling Parliament to support democracy by being representative, fair and relevant." This vision has been supported through the creation of workplace equality networks (WENs). WENs at the UK Parliament provide an opportunity for colleagues to discuss and consider issues relevant to their situation or of interest

to them. WENs in this context are useful forums for groups protected by equality legislation and beyond, providing a safe space to connect with others, share experiences, celebrate community and advocate for necessary changes to support diversity and inclusion. These WENs are open to all members of the parliamentary community, which is made up of thousands, from House/administration colleagues, Members of both Houses, Members’ staff and colleagues from Parliament’s Digital Service (PDS). WENs are staffed by volunteers from all members of the parliamentary community. The WENs include the following: • ParliAble – focusing on disability in the workplace. • ParliCare – focusing on supporting those with caring responsibilities. • ParliGender – focusing on gender equality. • ParliON – focusing on social mobility, inclusion and equality of opportunity in relation to socio-economic backgrounds. • ParliOut – focusing on supporting LGBTQ+ colleagues. • ParliREACH – focusing on support and advocacy for colleagues in relation to race, ethnicity and cultural heritage. Change in action As co-chair of ParliREACH and having been on the committee for a number of years, my connection to this work is deep rooted. When we speak of change, oftentimes it can feel abstract or out of reach. However, in my advocacy, organising and campaigning I have seen how the work of networks such as ParliREACH have influenced change directly and meaningfully. An example is ParliREACH’s ‘Stand in my Shoes: Race and Culture in Parliament’ report published in April 2019. After conducting seven focus groups with members of the parliamentary community from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, ParliREACH found that more could be done to challenge both conscious and unconscious bias as well as racial discrimination experienced in the workplace. ParliREACH used this research to make informed suggestions to both the House of Commons and the House of Lords management boards and advocate for change

Khadijah Khatun works at the UK Parliament as a Senior Internal Communications

Officer at the House of Commons and previously did the same role at the House of Lords. Alongside this role, Khadijah also co-chairs the UK Parliament’s workplace equality network ParliREACH which advocates for diversity and inclusion surrounding race, ethnicity and cultural heritage. She also heads a UK-based not-for-profit, Muslim Women Connect, which supports Muslim women in career growth and development. She is also a youth member of the Editorial Advisory Board for The Parliamentarian and was the UK representative at 9th Commonwealth Youth Parliament. With special thanks for the coordination of this article to Khadijah Khatun, Youth Representative for the CPA British Islands and Mediterranean Region on the Editorial Advisory Board for The Parliamentarian.

60 | The Parliamentarian | 2022: Issue One | 100 years of publishing


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