What does interculuralism mean?1
Interculturalism suggests the acceptance not only of principles of equality of rights, values and abilities but also the development of policies to promote interaction, collaboration and exchange with people of different cultures, ethnicity or religion. It is an approach that sees difference as something positive that can enrich society and recognises racism as an issue that needs to be tackled in order to create a more inclusive society.
What does culture mean?1
Culture represents a system of attitudes, values, beliefs and behaviours shared by a group of people which distinguish them from other groups.
What is a minority ethnic Group(s)?1
Ethnicity: refers to the shared characteristics that contribute to the identity of a person or group such as culture, language, religion, nationality or traditions.
An ethnic group: is a group that regards itself or is regarded by others as a distinct community on the basis of shared characteristics such as culture, language, religion, nationality or traditions.
Minority ethnic group(s): are those whose ethnicity is distinct from that of the majority of the population.
Since potential members may fear discrimination or isolation from established members, leaders should make every effort to ensure that fears are allayed. By carrying out many of the activities contained in the IGG Outreach pack with her unit before a potential member joins, the leader will ensure that the girls and the other leaders are open to integration.
Leaders should be aware that prejudices, racism, and stereotypes about particular groups, fear of the unknown and a desire to maintain the status quo may be barriers to diversity and integration.
Prejudice means judging somebody or a situation before we are aware of the facts. Based on insufficient information about others, we often tend to pre-judge them on what we believe we know about them. The word prejudice widely referes to the hostile attitudes that we frequently have towards people who come from a different ethnic background without really knowing them.
Everybody has prejudices. We need to understand them and try to find out where they originate. We all need to be aware of these feelings in order not to counteract them.
According to the National Action Plan against Racism, "Racism is a specific form of discrimination and exclusion faced by minority ethnic groups. It is based on the false belief that some "races" are inherently superior to others because of different skin colour, nationality, ethnic or cultural background."2 The word "race" is an old term used more than a century ago; it suggests that different species of human being exist. However, "all human beings belong to a single species and are descended from a common stock. They are born equal in dignity and rights and all form an integral part of humanity." (Article 1.1, Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice adopted and proclaimed by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation at its twentieth session on 27 November 1978)3 Leaders should be aware of racism among the girls. Ladybirds (five to seven years) don’t realise what they are saying, Brownies (seven to 11 years) have more awareness and Guides (11 to 15 years) know when they are saying or doing something inappropriate. Leaders should also be aware of racism among parents. For example, parents might not want their child to join IGG because there are "foreign" children there.
Stereotypes refer to generalisations about people based on limited or inaccurate information. These misrepresentations might originate from sensationalist media, or from what other people might say. Sometimes these false impressions are reinforced by our own experiences. When this happens, try to be open-minded and not to generalise a whole group of people based on a negative encounter with a member of that group.
Stereotypes can be positive or negative. We need to see beyond them, especially the negative ones.
In this context, discrimination refers to the less favourable and prejudicial treatment of certain people due to their ethnic background or/and national origins. There are different types of discrimination:
Direct discrimination suggests an explicit detrimental treatment of minority ethnic population. Direct discrimination would include expressing offensive verbal remarks, ignoring the needs of the minority ethnic girls, avoiding them or rejecting their membership.
Indirect discrimination is more difficult to detect as it is not as explicit. It refers to the policies and practices that, while appearing fair as they are applied to everybody, discriminate a sector of that population as those policies impact them in a disadvantageous way. For example when services are being provided to everybody equally but do not account for the linguistic needs of some of the population.
1Source: Opening Doors: The intercultural Toolkit for Service Providers in the North West Inner City, by NWICN
2For further information see: www.diversityireland.ie/Publications/Publications/NPAR.html
3To see the Declaration see: www.unhcr.ch/html/menu3/b/d_prejud.htm
4The Equality Authority web page has a lot of information about discrimination and equality legislation. See www.equality.ie