LGBT Youth Leadership Summit, 2016

The third edition of the Indian LGBT Youth Leadership Summit, hosted by MINGLE (Mission for Indian Gay and Lesbian Empowerment) concluded on Sunday, in in association with Love Matters and with the support of Godrej, Barclays, Fondation de France, Humsafar Trust, RNW Media, Rainbow Solidarite, Pink Pages magazine and Gay Bombay.

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The objective of the summit, which is organized every year, is to identify potential leaders among LGBT Indian youth and groom them for future leadership roles. More than 250 young LGBT people between the ages 18 and 28 had applied, among whom 35 were selected based on their leadership potential and willingness to engage on LGBT issues. The participants were a diverse group of men, women and transgender persons from various professional, educational and cultural backgrounds – coming from many Indian cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru among others.

The theme for the summit this year was “Coming out and coming together” with a focus on workplace inclusion.

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‘Indian LGBT Workplace Climate Survey 2016’ was launched which was conducted by MINGLE’s research team. The survey covered one hundred LGBT employees across three major sectors of the Indian economy. The Survey brought out some disturbing findings. 40% report facing harassment at workplace while one in five people faced discrimination from their managers or HR. Only 48% are covered by non-discrimination policy, i.e., every second person surveyed can be legally fired just for being LGBT.

 

The Survey also showed that “out” employees at work are consistently more engaged, more productive and loyal to the organizations compared to closeted employees.

 

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Fabrice Houdart (Human Rights Officer at United nations) said, ““For me it was shocking to see the figure of 40% harassment- in the West, figures of around 7-8% are considered worrying”. The United Nations is resolutely behind LGBT rights because we consider it an integral part of basic human rights. I know some countries claim that it is not part of their culture or tradition, but we must understand that tradition cannot trump human rights.” Stressing the importance of coming out, Fabrice spoke about his own personal experiences in the workplace when he was closeted. “I used to be afraid of straight men- coming out gave me the courage to be my authentic self, and dispel the fears that were holding me back.”

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Parmesh Shahani, head of Godrej India Culture Lab addressing the audience consisting of many HR and diversity professionals from various large multinationals urged them to start taking steps on LGBT inclusion like the way Godrej has been doing over the last two years. “What is stopping you from doing so”, he asked.

 

Ritesh Rajani, co-leader of LGBT employee resource group at IBM Spoke about the importance of coming out and its impact on people in the workplace – “This gives me an opportunity to spread awareness, and sensitize a lot more people, which often percolates outside the workplace as well.”

Pooja  Shahani, Diversity & Inclusion head of Goldman Sachs said,                                          “At Goldman Sachs, we ensure that such policies are applied uniformly across the globe. But beyond policies, we are focusing a lot on creating an inclusive culture.”

Radhika Vaidyanathan from Community Business found it noteworthy that 44% respondents are “out” at home compared to just 25% to their colleagues. “This makes me hopeful because if people are comfortable at home, they can be comfortable elsewhere as well eventually.”

The summit helped the youth leaders introspect on their personal challenges and becoming better leaders in general. Rohit Bairagi from Gurgaon said, “The summit was both fun and enlightening. I will take back the learnings and implement them in my own initiatives like starting an employee resource group in my company.

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MINGLE (Mission for Indian Gay & Lesbian Empowerment) is first of its kind LGBT think-tank and advocacy group consisting of students and professionals from diverse fields such as the Arts and Sciences, Journalism, Law, Medicine, Management and Engineering. Its vision is a truly liberal and pluralistic India where all citizens enjoy their fundamental right to lead a secure and dignified life irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Love Matters is the first ever bi-lingual multimedia project that delivers blush-free information and news on love, sex & relationships for young adults in India. Love Matters India was launched in 2011 and has now expanded to China, Latin America, Kenya and Egypt. It also focuses on safe sex. Sex is a  wonderful thing to explore, share, and enjoy. And we think that if you provide young people with honest and positive information and news on sex, they are more likely to have safer and healthier sexual lives. Love Matters won the Award for Excellence & Innovation in Sexuality Education for being the most innovative sexual health project in the world.

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