The BAME Forum asks: what does racial equality mean to you?

5 Feb 2021, 11:54 a.m.

BAME forum members

Last week saw the launch of the first Race Equality Week in the UK. It was motivated by the Nobel prize nominated Black Lives Matter movement, and as a response to the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on black and brown communities. The initiative encourages individuals and organisations to create meaningful changes that will lead to racial equality across the nation.

In response, the GOSH BAME Forum asked some of its members: how do we achieve racial equality?

Acknowledgement & compassion

Jodian

Jodian Pringle is a Ward Sister in the hospital’s Kangaroo ward, which cares for children needing long-term respiratory support. She’s been at the trust for 13 years and says that a huge part of her job is making sure all of her patients and their families feel understood, supported and listened to – whether that’s addressing a parent or child as they wish to be called or making sure her team is aware of cultural and religious sensitivities.

“Something as simple as saying someone’s name correctly can make such a difference in how they feel cared for. It’s an acknowledgment of who they are and where they come from and it matters,” said Jodian.

“I’m Caribbean and I know what it’s like to feel like you have to change your name because people find it hard to pronounce. Our names are such a huge part of our heritage and identity. I want everyone around me, from my patients and their families to my teammates, to feel like they belong,” said Jodian.

Jodian’s work focuses on creating a culture of respect, compassion and inclusivity.

Communication is key

Ashwin

Ashwin Pandey a junior doctor in GOSH’s Blood Cells and Cancer division says that communication is key. Ashwin came to London from Mumbai in 2018, wanting to train clinically and get involved in research focusing on children’s cancers. “I’d heard about GOSH when I entered the profession, so when I got a placement here I was really excited about the opportunities,” he said. Having come to the UK without his family, though, or a strong social network, he found things quite challenging at first.

There are more than 400 junior doctors at GOSH and almost half are from a BAME background. “I had to step out of my shell a bit. As an immigrant, language sometimes felt like a barrier where you might interpret things differently or not sound like everyone else. It can make you feel a bit out of place,” Ashwin said. “Sometimes it feels like communication is the biggest barrier to equality, but actually it’s also the key! When you open up and start sharing your experiences with the people around you, it can make a difference,” he said.

Since then, Ashwin has joined the JD Forum and BAME Forum and hopes to build bridges between the two organisations, casting a wider net of support for those who may feel what he did in those early days. “When I think about racial equality, it looks like giving someone the confidence to be their full, authentic self – bringing in all the things that make them different and embracing that. It’s letting them speak their individual truth, and on the other end someone is truly listening and being receptive to it,” he said.

Hold the door open for those who come after you

Margaret Bugyei-Kyei

Margaret Bugyei-Kyei, a Clinical Practice Lead in Theatres at GOSH believes that as people from black and brown communities overcome barriers in their professional or personal lives, they should also remember that those who come after them might experience similar challenges. “We have to keep holding the door open for future generations. Here we are in 2021 and we are still dealing with racial discrimination, which is keeping so many talented black and brown folks from accessing opportunities. So, we’re not there yet with racial equality,” she said.

Margaret has worked at GOSH since 2004, and although a nurse by profession, a Royal College of Nurses representative for staff, and recently ran for and won a second term in the Council of Governors which plays a crucial role in ensuring the hospital lives up to its values and vision for the future.

“I would encourage our communities to pursue their vision, even when it feels impossible, because we’re not always the gatekeepers,” said Margaret, “and when you get the chance bring others along on that journey so we can start shifting the dial.”

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