The theme of this year’s LGBT History Month is Religion, Belief & Philosophy.
Much of the conversation around sexual orientation, gender identity and religion presents as mutually exclusive the rights of religious believers on the one hand, and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people on the other hand. Yet, every day millions of LGBT people around the world combine their faith with their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In November 2013, the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights hosted a discussion on the topic of sexual orientation, gender identity and religion. The event featured a 5-minute video with personal testimonies of religious lesbian and gay people from around the world. Also at the event, a report was presented by Human Rights Without Frontiers entitled LGBT People, the Religions & Human Rights in Europe. In spite of what a polarised debate might suggests, it was argued that the values of freedom, equality and human dignity are the common ground of both religious believers and the defenders of LGBT people’s human rights.
Throughout February, Stonewall, a UK charity promoting LGBT equality, will profile inspirational LGBT people with different faiths / beliefs. The profiles include people who are Sikh, Muslim, Catholic, Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Humanist.
At the National Assembly we are committed to promoting LGBT equality. As such we are delighted to be ranked third in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index 2016 of the top LGBT-friendly organisations in the UK. We are also very proud to be named as the Top Public Sector Employer in Wales for LGBT people for the third year running.
The National Assembly for Wales’s estate has been awarded the National Autistic Society’s Access Award for the second year. The Award is a best practice standard for buildings and facilities, designed to provide assurance to people with autism and their families and carers. It demonstrates that the facilities are autism-friendly, and that there is a commitment to making sure people with autism can access them.
“This is yet another acknowledgement that the National Assembly takes the issue of equality of access very seriously,” said Presiding Officer, Dame Rosemary Butler AM.
“For democracy to truly work in Wales, its law-making institution must engage with everyone in Wales, and that means ensuring that our facilities, services and information are accessible to all.”
Sandy Mewies AM, the Assembly Commissioner with responsibility for equalities issues, added:
“The Autism Access Award demonstrates that the Assembly is committed to being an accessible venue for visitors who are on the autism spectrum.”
Below are some of the things the Assembly did in order to achieve the accreditation:
Did you know that the Assembly is a disability confident organisation?
To mark International Day of Disabled People, we wanted to let you know about some of the support that we have available for disabled people.
We subscribe to the social model of disability. The social model looks at the barriers erected by society in terms of disabled people being able to access goods and services. It seeks to remove unnecessary barriers which prevent disabled people participating in society, accessing work and living independently. The social model asks what can be done to remove barriers to inclusion. It also recognises that attitudes towards disabilities create unnecessary barriers to inclusion and requires people to take proactive action to remove these barriers.
To encourage applications from disabled people, we operate the guaranteed interview scheme for disabled people. This scheme guarantees disabled people an interview if they meet the minimum criteria for a job vacancy. We will make reasonable adjustments for disabled candidates invited to interview.
For our disabled staff:
Our staff policies are inclusive of disabled people. For example, we have a robust dignity at work policy to deal with inappropriate behaviour.
We have an active disability staff network called EMBRACE, who provide peer support to disabled staff and help us promote disability equality. They also help us to consider the needs of disabled people when making decisions and designing policies.
We provide a suite of disability-related training, including training that covers supporting disabled staff and visitors, deaf awareness and BSL training, autism awareness training, and dementia friendly training.
We have an onsite Occupational Health Nurse and access to an Employee Assistance Programme that can provide counselling services to staff.
Here are some quotes from disabled members of staff about their experience of working here:
“The willingness with which the Assembly engages with Embrace really makes me feel that it values my opinions and experiences as a disabled member of staff. I am proud to be a member of the network and feel that I am helping to make a real difference to the organisation and its staff.”
“My disability has a massive impact on my mobility and affects my working life. The support I have received from the Health and Safety Adviser has been outstanding. They have provided me with equipment to make my working day less painful and therefore more productive. The continuing support I receive from them helps me to remain working and I am extremely grateful to them.”
“I have been supported by the Occupational Health Nurse and have received counselling and stress management therapy through the Employee Assistance Programme. The Alexander Technique classes that have been arranged have also been extremely beneficial. Without all of this I doubt that I would still be working full time, if at all.”
For visitors, we ensure that our buildings are accessible and welcoming to disabled people.
We have lift access throughout our buildings;
Accessible parking is available;
There are loop systems throughout our buildings;
Our Front of House and Security staff have all undergone training on how to support disabled visitors;
We have Autism Champions across the organisation to welcome people with autism;
Some of our staff are trained in deaf awareness and British Sign Language;
We have a range of toilet facilities available, including a Changing Places facility, with a bed and a hoist.
We also have outreach, education and youth engagement teams that meet disabled people across Wales to tell them about the work of the Assembly and to listen to their views on issues that matter to them.
We have received recognition from external organisations that celebrate our accessibility.
Action on Hearing Loss has awarded us their Louder than Words Charter Mark for our commitment to supporting staff and visitors who are deaf or have a hearing loss. We also won their Action on Hearing Loss Cymru silver award at their Excellence Wales awards.
Logo for the Action on Hearing Loss Louder than Words charter mark
On Saturday 7 November, myself and Craig Stephenson, Assembly Director and Chair of our LGBT staff network, took a stall to Swansea Sparkle to talk to the public about the work of the Assembly and how they could become involved.
Swansea Sparkle was organised by Tawe Butterflies and South Wales Police, which provided an opportunity for people to come together and celebrate equality and diversity. The aim was to break down barriers between the public and the Transgender community by bringing organisations from across Wales and the U.K. together to showcase the support, information and advice available to the community.
It was a really interesting day and we had lots of interest about the Assembly. Many people were unaware that they had five Assembly Members whose job it is to represent them in the Assembly, so it was the perfect opportunity to provide them with our Explore the Assembly: Your Assembly Member Guide and chat with them about what issues they might face in their communities. Two Assembly Members came to the stall to say hello and have their picture taken with us – Julie James (Swansea West Constituency) and Peter Black (South West Wales Regional) – it was great to have their support at the event.
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to talk to a young person who is currently transitioning. I felt very honoured that they shared their story with me, and it was interesting to hear their experiences – both the happy and the sad parts. There have been big steps taken to make sure that the voices of the Transgender community are heard, but it is very clear that there is still a lot of work to be done. I took the time to make sure that the young person knew of all the different ways they could become involved in the work of the Assembly, even down to how hard the Assembly works to make sure our workforce is diverse and fully representative of Welsh communities. It was great to get their feedback on what else they thought the Assembly could work on, which will be fed back to our excellent Equality Team.
I also explained about who the Children’s Commissioner for Wales is and what their job is, so that if they felt they needed someone to help them in the future, they have someone else they can contact. It is important for all young people in Wales to know about the Children’s Commissioner.
Overall it was an excellent day – well organised and very welcoming! I can’t wait to go back next year!
October is Black History Month (BHM), it is the time of year when the culture, history and achievements of Black Minority Ethnic (BME) communities is recognised and celebrated.
The contributions that BME people have made to the development of British society, technology, economy and culture has been made possible by those brave men and women who paved the way. They were the beacon for other BME people, role models and examples of what was achievable.
The Black History Association Wales, in partnership with the African Community Centre, Wales Millennium Centre, Unison Cymru, Radio Cardiff and The Prince’s Trust Cymru, have announce this year’s theme as ‘Great Black Women, Past & Present’. In line with that theme here are 12 pioneering BME women who have paved the way for others to follow:
1. Mary Prince: The first Black woman to write and publish an autobiography ‘The History of Mary Prince: A West Indian Slave’, an account of the horrors of life on the plantations enslavement, published in Britain c.1831. Mary Prince was also the first woman to present an anti-slavery petition to Parliament.
2. Una Marson:The first Black female broadcaster at the BBC from 1939 to 1946.
3. Elisabeth Welch: One of the first Black people to have her own BBC radio series in 1935, ‘Soft Lights and Sweet Music’, which made her a household name in Britain.
4. Sislin Fay Allen: Britain’s first black WPC, joining the Metropolitan Police in 1968.
5. Lilian Bader: One of the first women in the RAF to qualify as an instrument repairer, after joining the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. Visit the Ministry Of Defense’s blogto find out more about BME people in the armed forces
6. Moira Stuart, OBE: the first female newsreader of African-Caribbean heritage on British television.
7. Diane Abbott, MP: The first black woman Member of Parliament when she was elected to the House of Commons in the 1987 general election.
8. Betty Campbell: Who in the 1970s became the nation’s first black head teacher with her post at Mount Stuart Primary in Butetown, Cardiff.
9. and 10.Baroness Valerie Amos: The first black woman cabinet minister and joint first black woman peer with Baroness Patricia Scotland.
11. Dame Jocelyn Barrow: The first black woman Governor of the BBC.
12. Claudia Jones: Founder of Britain’s first black weekly newspaper “The Westindian Gazette”, also known as the mother of the Notting Hill Carnival.
To celebrate Black History Month the National Assembly for Wales Black Minority Ethnic (BME) staff Network would like to share the people that have been their role models and who have inspired them – their ‘BME Heroes’.
Muhammad Ali – A former professional boxer
“A devout Muslim, who never gave up despite the challenges he faced as a black man, especially in the 1960’s and 1970’s. He has encouraged people to respect and better understand one another and to strive to be the best that they can. He epitomises how sports can be used to change social values.”
Stephen K. Amos – A stand-up comedian
“For his work with raising the profile of homosexuality, in his stand up performances, like the revealing solo show ‘All of Me’, at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, in which he publicly acknowledged his own homosexuality to his audience for the first time.”
Tracy Chapman – A singer-songwriter
“Lyrically her songs, such as ‘Talkin’ ‘bout a revolution’ and ‘Fast Car’, highlight the importance of speaking up against injustice and bring awareness to the struggles of poverty.”
Nelson Mandela – Former President of South Africa
“A humble leader who preached peace and forgave the people who put him into isolation for 27 years, and for leading all South Africans though a spirit of forgiveness and harmony. If I could be half the person he is I would be the happiest person.”
Pranab Mukherjee – Current President of India
“Because of the work he has done with poor people. He is an ambassador for the poor.”
Barack Obama – Current President of the United States
“As a BME person who has risen to arguably one of the most powerful positions in the world, you see that things are changing and that gives you hope. He is a great icon as every time you see him, you see a black man who is articulate and conducts himself well, even in the face of provocation.”
Michelle Obama – First Lady of the United State, lawyer, writer, big charity worker
“She is an incredible lady and fabulous human being, for many reasons, including her commitment in the promotion of a healthy nutrition and the right to women’s education.”
Oprah Winfrey – Media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer, and philanthropist
“She is an example of triumph over diversity. Not only is she a real rags to riches story, but on reaching the top of her field she has used her position to make a difference, using her influence and success to inspire, educate and empower people of all walks of life all over the world.”
Stevie Wonder – Musician
“A child prodigy. Naturally gifted and really talented, he taught himself to begin playing instruments at the age 4. He overcome difficulties and adversity to rise to the top of his profession and remained relevant and at the top of his game all of his working life.”
Malala Yousafzai – Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate
“A strong modern role model. After her traumatic experience, her courage and determination to make and seek change for women in all parts of the world – so that they can have an education- really stands out in my mind. She’s an incredibly brave woman with an incredible story. At only 18, she has already achieved so much and is set to accomplish so much more with her endeavours.”
Leymah Gbowee – Liberian anti-war and women’s rights leader, joint Noble Peace Prize winner in 2011
“An amazing individual with a colourful life and a truly inspiring person who has shown that with conviction and determination, anything can happen!”
If you are interested in finding out more about our BME staff network contact Raz Roap the Chair of the BME staff Network.
First celebrated in the UK in 1987, Black History Month (BHM) continues to be marked annually every October.
It is the time of year when the culture, history and achievements of Black Minority Ethnic (BME) communities take centre stage.
Throughout October events are taking place, nationally, to recognise and celebrate the achievements and contributions that BME people have made to the development of British society, technology, economy and arts & culture. To find out more about the events taking place across Wales visit the BHM Wales website.
To celebrate BHM the National Assembly for Wales BME staff Network have organised a range of activities and articles that will happen throughout October to raise awareness and foster an understanding of Black history.
During October our BME staff Network will be promoting their ‘BME Heroes’, the people that have been their role models and who have inspired them. Keep an eye on our blog throughout October to find out more.
We will also have a stall at the BHM Wales showcase event, at the Wales Millennium Centre on Saturday 24 October, a highlight of Black History Month. Why not come along and visit our stall, we would be very pleased to see you. The free day-long music and dance showcase will be celebrating African Diaspora culture and its contributions to Wales and beyond with music, song, dance, great food and great company.
If you are interested in finding out more about our BME staff network contact Raz Roap the Chair of the BME staff Network.
Bi visibility day is an important date in promoting equality. Originating in 1999 when US activists BiNET decided to create the day to spread awareness of bisexuality.
The day aims to educate the public on bisexual issues, eliminate negative preconceptions and to end discrimination received both from within the LGBT community and outside of it.
A recent article by YouGov revealed that less than half of the young people (18-24) surveyed identify themselves as 100% heterosexual, with a large number identifying on the bisexual spectrum.
Marginalising bisexuality leads to a negative impact on social and mental wellbeing of bisexual people. A 2012 survey showed that 5% of bisexual men made attempts on their life in one year compared with 0.4% of the general male population. It is for such reasons that days like these provide large importance.
The National Assembly for Wales is very pleased to have been listed fourth in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index and named the Top Public Sector Employer in Wales. We asked Mia Rees, the bisexuality lead of our LGBT staff network what being bisexual meant to her:
“Bi means questions. If you tell people you’re gay, nine out of 10 times people are like ‘Oh, OK, thanks for letting me know’ end of conversation. But if you tell people you’re Bi you are met with many ill-formed statements such as ‘You’re just gay but don’t know it yet’ or get intrusive personal questions about your sex life: ‘Have you slept with more men or women?’
Bisexuals are seen as a joke to both the gay and straight community which is hurtful and therefore when people assume I’m straight or gay I very rarely feel comfortable correcting them.
I recently broke up with my girlfriend and the first comment someone made was ‘Are you going to go back to men now?’ – What was I meant to say to that?!
I think people view bisexuality as a transition or experimental stage and for many it is but not all and it is important that is recognised.
By Selina Moyo, Black Minority Ethnic Action Plan Coordinator
On 24 June representatives from different Black Minority Ethnic Staff Networks (BMESNs) gathered in Cardiff Bay to set up a forum where BMESNs from Welsh Public Sector organisations could:
share ideas, resources and good practice;
learn about different initiatives to support BME development, and
explore and address issues applicable to BME staff and BME Networks.
The event was opened by the Presiding Officer, Dame Rosemary Butler AM, who congratulated the staff networks for coming together and urged them to continue working together in order to bring about changes in their workplace and communities.
“We cannot progress as a nation unless all members of our society are fully supported and reflected in our public services … such networking opportunities give us an opportunity to see how best we can better engage with each other and support the communities that we work for.”
The event was well attended, and speakers included: the Deputy Minister for Health, Vaughan Gething AM; Director of Resources for the National Assembly for Wales and BME Champion, Dave Tosh; the Assistant Director, Head of Complaints Unit at Welsh Government, Sanjiv Vedi; Yangi Vundamina, from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and Tola Munro from Gwent Police Ethnic Minority Association (GEMA).
Discussions focused on the role of BME Networks, in supporting staff development, in the workplace.
Participants agreed to set up a forum and meet regularly, to enable a deeper discussion of the themes that came up during the event. Already support for future meetings has come from the ONS, the Welsh Government and Diverse Cymru and Race Council Cymru.
The event was the start of an engagement process that will establish relationships to allow the support of BME staff development in the Welsh Public Sector, thus ensuring that organisations are representative of all the people they serve.
The event was initiated as part of the Assembly’s on-going BME Action Plan project which is aimed at addressing BME representation among the organisation’s workforce and to raise awareness of and promote the National Assembly for Wales as a diverse employer. To find out more about the BME action Plan contact email@example.com.
Monday 15 June marks the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta, a document that is viewed by many as part of the foundation of the rights, representations, liberties, and very democracy that we enjoy today.
The Magna Carta can be understood as an important, early human rights document that was key to the development of rights as we understand them, such as a right to justice and a fair trial.
To explore further what human rights mean in the context of everyday life, how they affect people and why they are so important take a walk down dignity drive, a simple interactive guide to the Human Right Act from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
More information on the anniversary of the Magna Carta can be found on the official website marking the occasion.