An interview with Liz Howarth, Chair of the Ethnic Minority Forum

I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak candidly with Liz Howarth, the Chair of the Ethnic Minority Forum about diversity and multiculturalism in our society and learn of the opportunities available;

Q. What is the Ethnic Minority Forum (EMF) doing to enhance the diversity and multiculturalism in our community?

I consider myself to be really lucky to be in the role of Chair of the Ethnic Minority Forum (EMF), because I am fortunate enough to work with lots of really dynamic people, who come from a diverse range of communities and organisations, and who are really enthusiastic about developing opportunities for cross-cultural dialogue and participation in Aberdeen city.   The EMF hold regular meetings which are open to all and amongst other things, showcase the work and activities of our local ethnic communities, organise training and cultural and events, and promote opportunities to enhance diversity and multiculturalism in Aberdeen.

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Q. How do many people from different countries and cultures collaborate with you? Do you consider it to be an important multicultural hub in Aberdeen?

 In addition to regular meetings, the EMF provides support to a wide range of initiatives, and works collaboratively with many other groups and forums in and around Grampian, including the NHS Grampian Multicultural Forum, GREC, Aberdeen Interfaith and a range of other groups and organisations.

A very recent collaboration we are really excited to be part of is the emerging ‘City of Sanctuary’ movement.  This has come to pass as a result of the welcome Aberdeen has offered to the Syrian refugees over the last year.  This is a city wide initiative, and it is very heartening to see the extent of support being offered from across the city, including faith organisations, 3rd Sector and Statutory bodies, all willing to contribute time and resources to help Aberdeen acquire ‘City of Sanctuary’ status.

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Q. Can you describe some of the projects you are running?

We are really excited to be involved in supporting the Mela – One World Day @ AIYF this year.  It will be the 4th year that the EMF has supported this event from its origins as the One World Day, and we are delighted to see how it has grown and evolved into what promises to be the best event yet.

July will be a busy month for the EMF, in addition to the Mela – One World Day, we are excited to support ACT Aberdeen deliver ‘We are the World Day’ which will showcase music, dance, food and performance at the Aberdeen Arts Centre.  We are also delighted to see the International Women’s Conference being delivered by members of our fantastic African Community.  This will be the 3rd consecutive year the conference has been delivered in Aberdeen, and will see delegates arrive in the city from across the globe, so we are of course delighted to support this event.

In recent months, the EMF recently organised and delivered the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Event on March 2017, with guest speakers, wide and diverse participation from individuals, communities and local organisations, which helped to ensure the event was a great success.

In addition to one off events, there are a number of training activities which are delivered for our local communities on a regular basis.  This includes professional training such as a ‘Introduction to Media Training’ which is delivered at no cost to participants, and personal development opportunities, such as free ‘Mindfulness Meditation’ sessions which are delivered by an experienced Nepalese Monk, Rev Sujan from the Varapunya Meditation Centre each month.

We also ensure that people from local ethnic communities have an opportunity to be consulted about issues which affect them in terms of the delivery of public services.

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Q. Why is accepting and embracing diversity important for our society?

I think we all recognise we are living in difficult times, politically and socially.  I write this with a heavy heart during the fallout of the Manchester Arena attack.  On a personal level, Manchester is the city I was born and grew up in, and the area where many of my family and friends live.  Most people I speak to are still trying to come to terms with the events that have taken place, the horror of the impact of the attack.  But at the same time, I am so proud of Manchester, by the way the city has come together, defiant against division and resilient in terms of its approach to community.  This is one unfortunate reason why it is more important than ever to not only accept, but to celebrate diversity within society, to embrace the contributions of our multicultural communities, and celebrate all that unites us as a society.

In a previous incarnation, I worked for some years overseas, in a number of countries, and I was so many times overwhelmed by the way people embraced me as part of their local community, and this helped to make my experience of living overseas all the more richer and enjoyable.  I have never forgotten the kindness shown to me during this time of my life, and I became resolved to always try to reciprocate this welcome to people who have come from outside the UK to live within my own community.

Aberdeen wouldn’t be the interesting and exciting city that it is without the contribution of all its citizens and I am only delighted that so many people from so many different cultural backgrounds have chosen to make Aberdeen their home, without them, we wouldn’t be planning for such exciting events as the Aberdeen Mela – One World Day, which is something Aberdeen can be proud of and will enjoy celebrating together.

Aberdeen Mela One World Day will take place on Sun 30th July @ Westburn Park, 12pm – 8pm, Free entry!

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