To build inclusion and end exclusion, we must speak up
Listening with true empathy to people’s stories, triumphs and struggles, can change us.
We learn that people’s experiences actually are very different from our own. We learn that being different and unique is a strength. We begin to reflect on what we can do differently to make our community more inclusive.
Through my work, I met Dr. Mandana Iraji, who shared a glimpse into her world — a woman of colour, a doctor, mentor and role model. At a young age, Iraji immigrated from Iran, making Canada her home and raising her family here. Since 2011, she has been practising emergency and family medicine in Simcoe County.
“In my home country, we were discriminated (against) because of our political perspectives and religious beliefs,” said Iraji. “Then, I came to Canada and experienced discrimination in a different way.”
Training as a young physician, Iraji faced gender and racial discrimination in the system and in the community.
Throughout her career, Iraji continued to experience discrimination. “It isn’t uncommon to have my medical knowledge questioned; to be treated unequally as compared to a white physician doing the same work,” she added.
Iraji incorporates advocacy and mentorship into her work with medical students. “You can face discrimination and racism anywhere you are. That’s my life story. This is how I have felt,” she said. “When I was younger, I felt I couldn’t say anything for fear of losing my job. Now, in a more senior position, I realize I have to be vocal, because discrimination is wrong.”
An advocate on several committees, Iraji uses her lived experience as a woman, an immigrant, and a person of colour to address the needs of others like her.
Iraji’s life and experiences have shaped her daughter Sabrina Guerrero into a young activist. Just 11 years old, Guerrero knows a lot about gender and racial inequity in the world and recently made an anti-racism and Black Lives Matter speech.
“When I come home and share my experiences, my daughter picks up on the importance of people advocating for themselves and for others,” commented Iraji. “I believe that you shouldn’t be silent when there is something wrong.”
I agree. For our community to build inclusion and end exclusion, we must speak up, stand up and break the silence.
Michèle Newton is an experienced diversity and inclusion speaker. Connect with her.