The theme for this issue of DialogWeb is Cultural Diversity. But what, in fact, is cultural diversity? The concept of ”diversity” can be linked to a multitude of variations, nuances or differences. According to UNESCO, ”culture” is a set of different features of a society or a social group; culture can exist on a spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional level. The expression ”cultural diversity” thus covers – as well as variations of art and literature – lifestyle, forms of cohabitation, value systems, traditions and life stance. It is important to be able to compare yourself with others in order to discover your own cultural affiliation and to eventually form an identity.
Diversity must amount to more than merely fancy words in action plans and policy documents. It is important that workplaces actually emphasise the individual strengths and the fact that they create an inclusive workplace. In Sweden, Pirjo Lahdenperä and Torbjörn Messing managed the project Jämbredd (=equality) at Mälardalen University. Within the project, both management and other university personnel received diversity training at the individual and organisational levels. The Jämbredd project ran from 2009 to 2011 and was financed by the European Social Fund.
The Danish travel agency DSB was awarded a prize by the Danish Human Rights Institute for their 20-year-old strategy for promoting and reinforcing diversity at the workplace. Health and safety manager Charlotte Breinholt says that the company’s diversity policy aims to create a good working environment and to generate creativity at the workplace. For example, DSB participated in the Copenhagen Pride festival and allows employees to choose whether they want to wear women’s or men’s work uniforms – the only requirement is that they wear a uniform.
On the Åland Islands, the association Regnbågsfyren (=rainbow lighthouse) works towards achieving acceptance and sexual equality for HBT people on the islands. Chairperson Lina Antman tells us about what the association does to prevent discrimination related to sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression in schools, at workplaces and in the society. The association disseminates information and organises social and supportive activities.
In today’s Finland, guidance services for immigrants are still very fragmented from the administrative perspective. Raimo Vuorinen, vice president of the International Association of Educational and Vocational Guidance, says that this is probably because guidance and recognition of acquired competences for immigrants became relevant later in Finland than in the other Nordic countries. Vuorinen feels that, in accordance with the EU 2020 strategy, good guidance builds on each individual’s strengths and leads to tailored solutions which include active learning at school and at work.
In the Faroe Islands, the following question is on the agenda: What kind of courses are being offered to immigrants and how do integration measures work? We sought answers by interviewing Svetlana Ananina, who has emigrated from Russia to the Faroes and is among those attending studies in Faroese language. In addition, language teacher Jóhan Samuelsen tells us about the integration work being done in the Faroes.
Cultural centre SISA was established four years ago in Alta, Norway. The Centre was created to serve as a cross-border meeting place for different organisations and cultures. The centre includes a café, a social meeting point, a house for associations, house for projects and an office space for associations. Today, 17 different organisations use SISA. They pay their rent by contributing to and participating in activities. Social anthropologist John-Tore Martinsen, who is in charge of the centre, says that the associations have managed to achieve acceptance and respect by working closely together. The cultural centre has made a difference: people are no longer talking about each other, they are talking with each other.
The Turath center in Estonia is yet another cultural centre, established by Ildar Muhhamedsin. The centre contains a library and a mosque and is open to everyone who wants to learn Arabic, Persian, Turkish or other languages. The centre has an important role in strengthening Tatar culture and Islamic culture in Estonia. In addition, it provides a bridge to the Arab World for the Estonian people and government.
In Iceland there is an institution which embraces the diversity within Icelandic art. Hjálmar Ragnarsson describes how the Iceland Academy of the Arts gathers all the arts, with the exception of literature, in one place. The Academy provides education in music, fine arts, graphic design, fashion, architecture, theatre, and dance.
This issue covers only a fraction of all the existing cultural diversity. The articles deal with subjects such as art, religion, integration, and different kinds of diversity-promoting activities taking place at workplaces and schools. Maybe we can all take on the challenge of figuring out ways of commemorating the ”World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development” on 21 May at our place of work or study, in our immediate environment or within the family. Now there is still time to plan and think about it. The important question is: How can we emphasise cultural diversity as a strength – here?
Let yourself be inspired!