“There’s nothing we can’t do, if we do it together”, Joe Biden, 47th president of the USA appealed for national unity and he started his presidency with a barrier-breaking Kamala Harris, first woman of colour elected to vice-presidency. Daughter of a Jamaican who taught at Stanford University and a cancer researcher mother with an Indian heritage background, will stand for the millions of underrepresented people around the country. It happened while in the UK, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has launched Change the Race Ratio, a campaign to increase racial and ethnic diversity in British companies.
Everyone, regardless of their skin colour, language, culture, gender, or religion should be able to fulfil their potential. Everyone has something special to share with others. The world becomes more racially and ethnically diverse and less segregated, at the same time. The likelihood of working or living next door to someone with a different linguistic or cultural background has never been higher.
In the UK, in 2019 about 14,4% of the population was from an ethnic minority background, ranging from 2.2% in Northern Ireland to 16,1% in England. However, only 10% of Members of the House of Commons were from ethnic minority backgrounds. In March 2020, 6,3% of Members of the House of Lords were from ethnic minority groups. Considering the ratio, it is still not enough, nevertheless the present numbers show a fast acceleration over the last ten years, compared to just one in forty Members of Parliament a decade ago.
The world is excited about Kamala Harris becoming the first female vice-president in the USA. Until recently, it was Great Britain that’s had the most diverse parliament in the world. Historically, the country has had six Queens (some historians argue there were eight of them), with the Queen Elizabeth II ruling the country since 1952 to present day. The first woman who pioneered in the parliament as the Prime Minister was Margaret Thatcher who first took on the role in 1979 and then consequently, in 1983 and 1987. Thirty years later, in 2017 Theresa May became the Prime Minister. There is also Nicola Sturgeon, serving the country as the First Minister of Scotland. In the United Kingdom then, female leaders are not uncommon.
The situation is a little bit different when it comes to being a woman with an ethnic minority background, although this is also slowly but steadily improving. In 1987, when Diane Abbott became the first black Member of Parliament, there were only four MPs from ethnic minorities (with Mrs Abbott being the only woman). Today, Priti Patel is the Home Secretary and Suella Braverman, the Attorney General, attends the Cabinet, both of them having diverse backgrounds. Altogether, there are 37 women from ethnic minorities in the House of Commons in the UK, out of 65 MPs from diverse backgrounds in total. A number that many countries can look up to.
Another country with a progressive approach to inclusivity in the Parliament is New Zealand. At the beginning of November, the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced the appointment of Nanaia Mahuta, the nation’s first Indigenous woman to the role of Minister of Foreign Affairs. Female representation in Parliament hit 48 per cent, with New Zealand electing its first MPs of African and Latin American heritage.
These changes give hope. The hope for the future when one day, only the qualifications, experience, and our personality can matter, not the skin colour, gender, or the culture we come from. They send a message of unity, openness, and acceptance. No one knows what the future holds but in the uncertain times like these, being together, helping one another and seeing that we are all humans is what can help us get through. An African philosophy emphasises being human through other people. “I am because of who we all are.” We are all bound together, and we can only grow and progress through the growth and progression of others. It is time for us to acknowledge that.