Like much of the world, we were horrified by the murder of George Floyd in the US in May 2020. Following the global conversation on race and racism, our staff felt strongly that our own focus on equality, empowerment, ending discrimination, and poverty-eradication must extend to the workplace.
This is why in 2020, the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) proactively started a process of examining and addressing issues of racism and colonial legacies within IPPF. We commissioned our Anti-Racism Review to hold IPPF accountable. The Review was not confined to just our London office; it was a full and independent interrogation of the Secretariat as we felt strongly that no one should be excluded from a conversation as critical as this. The Review's findings were shared with all IPPF secretariat staff on 26 July 2021. We included a response from management, the Anti Racism Working Group and the Board of Trustees Statement on Anti-Racism.
The report was a turning point for IPPF, and as much as it was difficult to read, we hope people felt safe sharing their experiences with us. IPPF anticipated that the report would uncover some hard truths on people's experience of racism within the workplace, and we have acknowledged and are humbled by the contributions from staff. We know talking about lived experiences of racism and discrimination takes an emotional and mental toll, and we are deeply sorry to our colleagues who have experienced racism and discrimination in the workplace. IPPF remains truly grateful for their contribution, which has led to practical insights and recommendations that the management team has taken forward, with oversight from our governance.
IPPF has a duty to do better, and we are committed long-term to the principles of affirmative action and, through them, the Anti-Racism Programme of Action. In line with some of the recommendations, we have continued to engage as a management team, with a staff working group representing all regions, and a Board of Trustees Sub Committee, thereby creating complete oversight of the implementation of the recommendations. The Anti Racism Sub Committee is led by Bience Gawanas, who has global expertise in the area and was one of the Under-Secretary Generals who supported the internal efforts to combat racism within the UN.
Currently, we feel that our management team and our governance reflect the diversity and experience necessary to decolonise the way we work. Our current Board of Trustees, formed in 2020, is made up of 15 people (including 20% young people under the age of 25) from 11 different geographies, including West Africa, Central Africa, Southern Africa, the Caribbean, Latin-America, Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe, North America, Oceania and South Asia. Our Global Leadership Team comprises of ten people from nine different countries, with each of our Regional Directors, who all identify as women, representing the diversity of the regions they lead. We were also a very high performer in the 2022 Global Health 50/50 Report and have rated a consistently high performer since 2020, achieving gender parity in our governing body and senior management in the range of 56-100% of women represented.
Our Leadership is committed to creating an organisation that has no discrimination in how it operates and the services it offers. In trying to address some of the the report's recommendations, IPPF has:
- Begun a series of discussions, webinars and training to address some of the interpersonal and institutional racism that exists in the organisation. This has included training on aspects of microaggressions, unconscious bias and other pathways of racism that exist. We have interrogated our framing of issues within a more public domain through asset framing training with an anti-racism lens.
- Contracted a team of anti-racism trainers to conduct training across the Secretariat for the next six months to more deeply interrogate some key issues emanating from the report.
- For the last ten months, we have been working on a series of consultations focusing on our next five-year strategy, which has explicitly embedded anti-racism as central to our strategic direction.
- Critically we are working on our public statement of action for Anti-Racism – co-created with Member Associations through our training to be delivered at the IPPF General Assembly in November 2022. We felt strongly that it was too easy to focus on public sentiments and that we wanted to walk the talk as an organization before this, which is why the sequencing of the Anti-Racism Program of Action is as it is. You will see that evidenced in the management response.
- As part of our actions to ensure equity across the Secretariat, over the past 18 months, we have conducted a comprehensive pay and benefits review and bought a consistent approach to job evaluation, grading and pay scales at all levels and for all geographies across the Secretariat.
We share these points not to underestimate some of the report's findings but to demonstrate that we take seriously the actioning of this work.
We thank all staff who participated in the review and know that this was not easy. Still, we are grateful to have the recommendations and are committed to ensuring that we address these as holistically as possible. We look to the future with hope and commitment so that all our colleagues feel safe and valued while working for IPPF.
Dr Alvaro Bermejo, IPPF Director-General