Big Society, Children's Rights, Equality & Diversity, Ethics, House of Lords, Human Rights, NHS

Speech at the House of Lords

House of LordsBelow is my short speech for my appointment as the Ambassador of Progressive Muslims Forum, UK. at the House of Lords.

I am pleased for receiving the achievement award for my work in relation with human rights, equality & diversity, and social cohesion at the Parliamentary Reception of PMF-UK.

 

THE HOUSE OF LORDS

Speech by Claudia Megele

For Progressive Muslims Forum – UK Parliamentary Reception

 

The Challenges of 21st Century for Ethnic Minorities focusing on

Education, Employment, Health Care and Community Cohesion

Lord Patel and dear Khurshid Alam thank you for your invitation and for this opportunity to share a few words.

After studying since 2002, this month, Emily Chapman received her Bachelor of Arts certificate from the Open University; that will be an additional cause for her rejoicing next month, when she celebrates her 90th birthday.

Indeed, we live in the age of heroes, where every dream seems possible and stories such as Emily’s show us that it is never too late.

With our blackberries, iphones and ipads, we are more connected than ever before. In fact, new technologies challenge us with a myriad of possibilities.

The internet and social media offer infinitely malleable avenues of expression and exchange which have transformed our notions of sociality, communication, connectedness, self-expression and equality.

Applications such as SM HEART LINK enable our mobile phones to double as heart monitor and fitness tracking system and to upload the same information on internet or to send it instantly to our doctor or cardiologist.

Social media has surpassed pornography and has become the no. 1 activity on the web and together with the new gaming technologies offers unlimited possibilities in every aspect of life.

We can place a library of books in every child and young person’s hand.  

We can learn and share knowledge and wisdom through Google and Twitter and engage in educational games and online debate.

These new realities have redefined and enhanced health care and education and have transformed the processes of identity formation and human interaction and the very meaning of “lived experience” and community cohesion.

However, every new technology that solves a problem creates new challenges.

In a world of 24-hour connectivity, the challenge is to learn and apply the art of disconnecting.

In a world of rapid change and evolution, the challenge and our ethical and moral responsibility are to ensure that everyone is able to get on the train of social progress and economic prosperity. There is much that needs to be done as the gap between the rich and the poor is the widest it has been since the Second World War, and this is the greatest challenge for our civilised society in the 21st Century.

Indeed, while the new cyber-democracy may have inspired “people power” and brought about global political shifts in what has been termed as the “Jasmine Revolution” or the “Arab spring”, we are still far from achieving social equity and economic justice at home.

Statistics show that 47% of children suffering from asthma are from poorest 10% of families in UK.

In UNICEF’s ranking of countries for child poverty, UK came 18th out of 22 European countries, and child poverty under current policies is set to rise 11% in the next 3 years.

Tower Hamlets is one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse and deprived boroughs in the UK, and I offer one day a week free psychotherapy to residents of Tower Hamlets. Therefore, I hear some of their stories of isolation, deprivation, abuse, neglect, cultural exclusion, and various other emotional challenges.

Education is the last thing on the mind of a young person who is faced with daily experiences of violence, isolation, failed hopes, and aborted dreams.

Indeed, one of our greatest socio-cultural conundrums today is the hastened pace of change that has challenged the transmission of cultural norms and values. This has resulted in an unprecedented trans-generational gap and has threatened the preservation of cultural stories and values of every ethnic group.

If we are to make a difference and if the Big Society is to be anything more than a vacuous concept, then we must ensure that it generates and sustains the social participation and partnership necessary for its realisation.

We must reformulate and attune the prescriptive language of policy and statements of change, with a message of hope and an invitation for a new participatory citizenship constituted and sustained based on a dynamic appreciation for diversity and profound commitment to a greater social justice and a proactive social engagement and equality.

The other side of this coin is the challenge to ethnic and cultural communities to reconcile differences and bridge divisions in order to ensure that diversity is indeed understood, lived and expressed as socio-cultural enrichment.

As highlighted by Wheatley “In life the issues is not control, but dynamic connectedness”.

We must restore this dynamic connectedness with a profound ethnic and emotional sensitivity to our policies, attitudes, actions and decisions.

In a civilised and progressive society safeguarding and advocating for the disenfranchised is everyone’s responsibility.  In this challenging context we need to focus on the quality of our actions rather than quantity of interventions.

We need to balance the econometric benchmarking requirements and our performance indicators with the realities and qualitative challenges of each case.  We need to breathe a new breath of re-vitalised vigour in our actions by expanding our focus to encompass both ‘doing the right thing’ and ‘doing the thing right’.

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