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Why this year's Oscars made Diversity History

Category: Blogger's Corner, diversity, International Women's day, Oscar

Why this year's Oscars made Diversity History

The Oscars happened. Talent was recognised. Dresses were scrutinised.

But one line during an Oscar-winning speech was truly significant – that from actress Lupita Nyong'o who told the crowd that, "No matter where you're from, your dreams are valid."
It was a speech that highlighted the importance of story-telling in acknowledging history's biggest crimes and one that put the plight that still exists for so many women globally in perspective.

Indeed, although possibly not intended as such, I believe it was a speech that should remind us all of what's really important this coming International Women's Day.

Taking the award for her role in 12 Years a Slave, the Mexican born, Kenyan actress referenced the plight of slave Patsey whom she portrayed in the film. "It doesn't escape me for a moment that so much job in my life is due to so much pain in someone else's," she said.

The pain of Patsey's life is still felt by so many women internationally. Not as slaves in the sense of Patsey's story but as the abused, dehumanized, vulnerable, neglected, marginalized and exploited. Women who, on account of where they're born or who they're born to, experience adversity on a scale that other women – again on account of where they're born or who they're born to – could never, ever, fully imagine.

There are many things to celebrate on International Women's Day: the equal opportunities and rights those women before us have fought for, advances in health and reproductive care, how far we've come in business and leadership, the changes to workplace cultures and structures that are opening more opportunities for women and the 'firsts' women continue to initiate.

But more important are the things we must remember. Particularly, the stats that tell the global story of just how far we have to go.

There's the fact that one in three women globally will be beaten, abused or coerced into sex during the course of her life by an intimate partner, with one in five women estimated to become the victim of rape or attempted rape. The fact women account for 80% of those trafficked across borders, usually for the purpose of sexual exploitation. The 1.5 million girls who go "missing at birth" every year. The sobering reminder that in some countries, the lifelong chance of death during childbirth can be as high as one in 15 (as the WHO estimates it is in Chad). Child marriage, female genital mutilation, lack of basic access to healthcare, sanitation and education: the issues affecting women worldwide goes on and on and the stats regarding the extent of such problems are shocking.
And then there's the sad reminder that despite all of the above, the UN still estimates women hold just 19% of parliamentary seats worldwide.

Women, no matter what their circumstances, can and do dream. Dreams are valid, no matter where you're from. The dream could be as simple as having other people acknowledging your plight in the hope that it may be different for those behind you.

Nyong'o noted that if dead people could see the film 12 Years A Slave, they might be grateful to know their story was being told. Sadly, there are still far too many stories of women that will never be heard today, or even told in the future.

Vercida works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with Vercida to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please call 02037405973 or email info@vercida.com for more information.

We are also officially recommended by Disability Confident as a step on achieving Employer status, please click here for more information.

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email info@vercida.com for more information.

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