“Equality Is About Respecting Each One’s Identity”: How Do We Get There?

Posted: July 11, 2019

Meet Dr. Akkai Padmashali, transgender activist, talking of what Equality means to her, and how we can all work towards creating more equal workplaces.

While Equality is something we all aspire to, it means different things to different people, based on the different challenges they have experienced in their own lives. While the objective may well remain the same, based on their specific definition of equality, their struggles would be different too. As a society, whether at homes or in our workplaces, it is important that we strive to understand what each person needs on their quest for equality.

One such incredible person who has been working towards this goal is Dr. Akkai Padmashali, a female transgender activist and one of the remarkable women who worked hard to have homosexuality decriminalised.  

Raised by her family as a boy, Dr. Akkai struggled with understanding her own body and accepting who she was. The battle for acceptance continued for 23 years! Internally, she identified as a girl, but society had already labelled her as a ‘boy’.

Learning about her journey left me awed – while I may have struggled with adhering to the social norms of being a woman, here was someone who had struggled with the entire concept of identity. How did  ‘simple’ tasks such as filling in the gender field on application forms make her feel? How did she cope with the stereotypical expectations of attire and behaviour?

From facing steep opposition including having boiling water poured on her legs for doing ‘girly’ things and being sexually harassed to becoming the first transgendered person to receive a honorary doctorate is a journey that couldn’t have been easy for her. What’s heartening to see is that she never gave up looking for opportunities that were suitable for her, whether it was working with Sangama – an organisation that works for the upliftment of the LGBTQ community and sex workers, or starting Ondede, that works for the rights of transgendered people.

How do we actually implement the changes that would ensure not just the absence of cruelty but also true acceptance and equality for every human being? How do we make sure that our workplaces too hire, train, and promote people of differing orientations?

Fortunately, I didn’t have to go far to find the answers. Dr. Akkai Padmashali was recently part of a panel discussion with other change-makers on ‘A Culture of Equality – Building Blocks’, held at Accenture as part of Pride Month celebrations. The focus of the conversation was on creating an empowering environment, encouraging bold leadership, and implementing comprehensive action, all of which are the building blocks for equality. You can watch the complete video here:

With an attempt to understand what equality means to different people and what we can do to create the ecosystems that lead us to this equality, it makes this incredible conversation a must watch for everyone. It was also heartening to note how organisations like Accenture are taking the lead in being part of such conversations that will lead us towards creating a safe and inclusive environment for everyone.

In one of her other interviews that I watched, Dr. Akkai had shared a question that plagues her often, ‘Who will take on the responsibility after me?’

After watching this incredible panel discussion, I know the answer to that is,“All of us!”

In association with Accenture

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Piyusha is a sometime sane reader, part-time crazy writer and full-time wacky alien.

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