Rotarians must strive to build a world in which diversity is celebrated with people across religion, culture, national boundaries and socioeconomic status, to enrich humanity, said Trustee-elect and PRID Bharat Pandya. Speaking at the DEI session at the Mahabs 21 institute, he urged the incoming governors to “understand each element in the Diversity-Equity-Inclusion (DEI) principle of Rotary to take it forward in the coming years.”
The first step, he said, is to realise that diversity is not just “setting an agenda or paying lip service to bringing in a certain percentage of women into Rotary or adding more Rotaractors. DGEs must be aware of the diversity within the district and across age groups, and the context of how DEI would play out for individuals in their clubs, district and zone,” he said.
DEI is crucial for the success of the Grow Rotary initiative. “The idea is to help you to think strategically on membership so that the Each one, bring one initiative is truly effective.” Club programmes and projects must have space for DEI principles to grow. “We have our own biases, but we have to learn to be more empathetic and open-minded. Try to work with people whose backgrounds and perspectives are different from yours, and learn from Rotary leaders with diverse leadership styles.”
Sometimes equity is confused with equality, he said. “Equity is the process of ensuring that every process and programme at the club, district and zonal level is impartial, fair and provides equal possible outcomes for every member in the club.” Members must feel a sense of belonging to the club and “as leaders you have to ensure every Rotarian feels comfortable and supported.”
On the issue of Rotary’s zero tolerance towards harassment, Pandya gave a presentation on “the escalation process to ensure that a member complaining about a certain issue must not face retaliation of any sort. You have to act with integrity and be fair in every situation,” he said.
The DEI principle must be included in the district training programme and DGEs can log in to www.rotary.org for sourcing resource material and more information on this subject, said RI Director A S Venkatesh. “If you want speakers or trainers, Director Mahesh and I can arrange that for you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about DEI. All of us are learning here.”
Encouraging the DGEs to listen and learn from the Rotary leaders, GETS chair PDG Gowri Rajan said “Rotary will make history when its first woman president (Jennifer Jones) will take office in July next year and you will be part of this historical team. While you will be part of an epoch-making year, always remember to be humble and keep your feet on the ground.”