Congratulations on your new role at IPPF, Sonal! Could you tell us about your journey as an LGBTQ+ rights activist and how it has shaped your understanding of diversity and inclusion?
I am deeply humbled and honored to share my journey with you. It all began from a place of personal understanding and empathy, rooted in facing and witnessing firsthand the inequalities and challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community. Over the years, through initiatives like Yaariyan and Umang, which I co-founded, I've had the privilege of learning from and working with some of the most resilient individuals. These interactions have opened my eyes to the importance of diversity and inclusion not just as concepts but as the bedrock of societal growth and development. Today, I understand that true diversity and inclusion mean not just recognizing but actively celebrating our differences while ensuring equal rights, dignity, and accessibility for all.
As a South Asian member and activist of the LGBTQ+ community, you bring a unique perspective into this role as global lead of diversity and inclusion. How do you see yourself using this lived experience when tackling your new position at IPPF?
My journey as an LGBTQ+ activist in South Asia has been rich with lessons I hope to bring into my new role. I've learned that our experiences are deeply intertwined with our cultural, societal, and regulatory contexts, which has given me a profound appreciation for representation and inclusivity. In my new role at IPPF, I plan to use this understanding as a guiding light to ensure that our initiatives are context-sensitive and that our decision-making processes reflect the voices of those we're striving to serve.
Do you believe the IPPF has a long way to go when it comes to Diversity and Inclusion? What does complete inclusivity look like to you from an organizational standpoint?
IPPF has made significant strides in diversity and inclusion, but as the landscapes of sexual and reproductive health evolve, so must our efforts. To me, complete inclusivity in an organization signifies a conscious recognition and celebration of intersectionality. It means creating safe spaces where individuals can express their identities without fear. It involves dismantling barriers to service access and active participation and weaving diversity and inclusion into every strand of the organization's fabric.
As the lead on diversity and inclusion, what steps will you take to ensure that the voices and experiences of marginalized LGBTQ+ communities are heard and integrated into IPPF's decision-making processes?
My primary focus will be fostering an environment of active participation from marginalized LGBTQ+ communities. I plan to initiate open dialogues, seeking out experiences, needs, and recommendations from these communities and ensuring they're reflected in our decision-making. We can create a sense of shared ownership and joint decision-making by involving them in program planning and implementation. I also aim to intensify our advocacy to challenge discriminatory laws based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Can you tell us about any specific initiatives or programs that IPPF has implemented to address the sexual and reproductive health needs of LGBTQ+ individuals or others of diverse communities?
IPPF has initiated numerous programs to address the sexual and reproductive health needs of individuals of diverse orientations and identities. We are committed to providing stigma-free, non-discriminatory sexual health services and championing for everyone's rights. Our work spans various areas, such as combating sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), advocating for laws changes regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, and developing youth-centered programs that respect and acknowledge sexual diversity. Our Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) program, for example, adopts a sex-positive approach, affirming the sexual rights of people of all orientations and identities.
As Pride month comes to an end, what message do you have for our audience and fellow IPPF staff?
As we conclude Pride Month, I would like to emphasize that the essence of Pride extends beyond a specific timeframe. It is a daily commitment to fostering equality, acceptance, and celebrating diversity. To our audience and my fellow IPPF staff, I say this - our journey of learning, listening, advocating, and standing for what is right, never ceases. Together, we have the power to shape a world where all individuals can make choices about their gender, sexuality, and well-being without the fear of discrimination. Let's remember that our diversity is our greatest asset, and fostering inclusivity is not just an obligation but a privilege. United, we can and will bring about a transformative change.