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by <object object at 0x7fe76fa23580> last modified 02/10/2020 08:02 AM

Equality starts with you, today

by <object object at 0x7fe76fa23580> last modified 02/10/2020 08:02 AM

Ten years ago, 116 separate pieces of legislation were brought together in one single Act.

The Equality Act 2010 shapes anti-discrimination law in the UK today. It's the culmination of 800 years of human rights struggles in Britain and a key part of our identity as a democratic society.

By defining protected characteristics within the Act, we set out what matters to us as a nation. Parity, equity, representation and participation are not just things that are nice to have, but elements critical to our individual, social and economic success.

‘Protected’ does not mean we omit these characteristics from our decision making. It’s about giving consideration to and accommodating difference to meet the interests of everyone fully, removing the barriers that enable some to succeed whilst holding others back.

Time and time again, the advancement of these rights doesn't stem from an epic battle of good vs evil. It's born of the actions of ordinary people who find the courage to say no to something accepted as normal at the time - whether that's standing in front of a bus to confront racism or striking to protect workers' rights.

Flash forward to today and it feels like we've hit a bit of a dead end as far as our rights go. Technology has us simultaneously connected and divided. Movements have galvanised the public whilst splintering society into angry irreconcilable fractions. Political discourse has descended into vitriolic one-upmanship, while we’re all stuck playing off protected characteristics against one another like a game of Equalities Top Trumps.

To navigate beyond this we need to hold onto the very purpose of the Act; equality is not a burden placed on us but an opportunity. How many scholars, inventors, engineers, artists and scientists have we lost out on over generations past? To be conscious of difference and to see its benefits helps us to realise the potential of every human mind for the betterment of us all. Each time we fail to include is a possibility for innovation that is missed.

The Act may not be perfect. But reflecting on its anniversary can serve as a reminder of what we can achieve if we stand up for what we believe in and enable everyone to have a fair chance to a healthy, happy life. The surge in volunteering in response to the coronavirus crisis has at least shown us that, in spite of everything that divides us, people are able to unite and mobilise for the good of each other when it matters most.

Provoking change is neither a sprint nor a marathon; it’s a relay. If it feels like we're covering the same ground over and over again that's probably because we are. The bit that keeps it exciting is you never know who’s gonna pick up that baton next in the race for human rights.

That's why we have to reset and see the face of our own struggles in the faces of others - not just in our friends but in the face of our worst enemy. Seeing the limitations of ourselves and our own assumptions and treating cooperation not as a chore but as the tool that's fundamental to our evolutionary success.

The next ten years of equality and what that means for us all is a lap that starts with you today.

Emma Harvey, CEO

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