An update on our commitments to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Racial Justice
In June 2020, prompted by the death of George Floyd and the growing Black Lives Matter protests, the essential importance of truth and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada, and related movements around the world, we resolved to examine our work and our organization to identify how we can play a stronger role in anti-racism and the struggle for racial justice.
At the time, we published this statement: “Farm Radio International—defining our role in the anti-racism movement.” In the piece we made several commitments to what we could do within our organization to become explicitly anti-racist.
Here’s what we committed to:
- Undertake an analysis of our work, structure, approach and methods to see which factors might be inadvertently contributing to racism, and which could be strengthened to be made anti-racist, then implement those changes.
- Use a participatory approach to develop a rigorous anti-racism policy.
- Build the knowledge and skills of staff and the board of directors through ongoing training, learning, and unlearning activities.
- Support our partner radio stations in promoting inclusion, diversity and cross-cultural understanding.
We wanted to report back to you what we have done in the past year, as well as the work that has yet to be done—we know this is a long-term process, and we are committed to this work. As has often been said: if you want to move fast, go alone. But if you want to make a lasting change, work with many, and take the time to do it right.
In the past year we:
- Established a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Racial Justice working group that includes members from different backgrounds (from across the countries we have offices in) and across different levels in the organization with clear terms of reference and an annual work plan.
- Adopted our commitments to diversity, equity, inclusion and justice into our annual strategic plan, the guiding document that directs what we do over the course of a year.
- Asked leadership across the organization to complete an intercultural competency assessment and to discuss their results.
- Signed onto, and participated in the development of, the Cooperation Canada Anti-racism framework.
- Underwent a baseline assessment of our work using that framework.
- Developed terms of reference and a plan for engaging a consultant to support us with an anti-racism audit of our work, structure, and processes.
Additionally, as steps toward making Farm Radio International a more Africa-led organization, we identified and initiated important structural changes to the organization. We are working with our African Advisory Boards, located in the various countries where we have offices, to elevate their roles in the leadership of the organization as a whole.
As part of this, we created a Senior Advisor for Strategy position within the Executive Director’s office with a specific mandate for promoting diversity, equity, inclusion and justice within Farm Radio. Rex Chapota, a strong champion for Africa-led development, has taken on the position. Further, two of our five centres of excellence, Digital Innovation and Gender Equality and Inclusion, are now led by African specialists based in Ghana and Burkina Faso, respectively.
While we have certainly made progress in the last year, there is still a lot to be done. Here is what we are working on in the next year:
- In the coming months we will hire a firm — one who is trained and is an expert in anti-racist practices — to conduct an audit of our entire organization’s work, from what we do, to how we talk about what we do.
- When the audit is complete, we will begin a planned participatory approach to develop and implement a rigorous anti-racism policy.
- Our communications team is conducting an organization-wide review and training on ethical communications, from informed consent to how we show and talk about the communities we work with.
As we look forward we hope we can also look outward as well as inward, and work towards a space where we support our partners in promoting similar values.
Considering the decolonization of aid
International development efforts began about 70 years ago with the intention of, at best, addressing the negative effects of centuries of racism and colonialism and, at worst, actually sustaining and enabling continued dependency. Many development organizations, Farm Radio International included, emerged from this legacy. Thus, part of our work is examining how we can move past and undo the vestiges of this colonial history.
A concrete measure Canada can take is to amend the Income Tax Act to make it possible for charities like Farm Radio to work in equitable partnership with local African organizations. Presently, the Act requires Canadian charities to be in full direction and control of any resources that are shared with African partner organizations. The charity, according to the Act, must ensure that all money is used exclusively for the charity’s “own activities” instead of the work that is a priority for our partners.
This is a concrete example of colonialism embedded in policies, laws and systems. We are pleased to lend support to the effort of Senator Ratna Omidvar to amend the Income Tax Act to allow more equitable partnerships while maintaining effectiveness, accountability and transparency.
Looking to the future
We are taking this process step-by-step. We still have work to do, but we are on our way. We must reconcile what it means to be an internationally-focused NGO with a Canadian office situated on unceded Algonquin Anishinabe territory, in a country undergoing a difficult, painful, but hopeful reconciliation process between Canada and Indigenous peoples.
As we said in our statement last year, should we make mistakes along the way, we hope our colleagues, our donors, our board, and you who are reading this, will keep us accountable. If you have something to say, please get in touch by emailing us at [email protected].