The purpose of this learning and development plan is to understand the importance of equality, diversity and human rights in the practice of social work. I aim to indentify, recognise and respect diversity and equality using theories and ideas that will relate to why oppression, discrimination and prejudice occur in today’s society. I will also write about how I am aware of my own personal prejudices and dilemmas and how I aim to challenge oppression/discrimination with the use of anti-discriminatory practices.
“Language is legislation, speech is its code. We do not see the power which is in speech because we forget that all speech is a classification and that all classifications are oppressive”.
The word Oppression in the English language means;
the act of subjugating by cruelty
a feeling of being oppressed
kept down by unjust use of force or authority; “the tyrant’s oppression of the people”
(Hyperdictionary, 2000- 2009)
It is viewed differently by Feminists and by Marxists. Marxism believes that it is a class issue. They suggest women, gays or people of non-white skin should be subordinate to the Bourgeoisie, that Capitalism shapes and depends upon oppression for survival and the struggles of the oppressed cannot be carried out across all classes. The Bourgeoisie has various means to keep down the lower class (poor) by squeezing more profits from then. The working class are the oppressed class; they often have bad housing, education and therefore poor job opportunities than the middle or upper class of the Bourgeoisie. (D’Amato, 1999)
Marxists argue that the eradication of racism, sexism or homophobia will mean that a capitalist government will have to be overthrown; however, they will never tell the oppressed this, but will advice them that the revolution is coming and they need to wait. They see the struggle against all forms of oppression is essential to the struggle of socialism.
Carl Marx the founder of Marxism ignored and downplayed oppression as he came from a privileged background. (D’Amato, 1999)
Radical feminists believe that women are oppressed within the patriarchal system (males are viewed as superior to females), that marriage and family are a result of capitalism. Women have a common bond with each other no matter the age, race or class. Women need to take control of their lives; they need to separate themselves from the things that have oppressed them. (Zieber, 2008)
Socialist feminists say that women are oppressed because of dominance and economic inequality that every form of oppression is a feminist issue and women are a subordinate class by the power positions males have in society. (Holmstrom, 2003)
I myself have experienced being oppressed by males. I live with my partner on a farm and we have people (mainly men) come to work there. Some men do not think I should not be working in a male environment, that I cannot be driving a tractor, working out in the fields or when I am quality controlling their work with the livestock. If their work is not up to the right standard I tell them, they often tell me I am wrong and try to speak to another person (a male), who then will often relay the same as what I have already said. If it persists I will speak to my manager, who then speaks to them. Culture also comes into the equation at work as they often come from a different country; therefore they have different beliefs on what work women should do. I feel disempowered and start to question myself about my work, but I carry on with my work as it is the end product which counts and people who buy the products are happy.
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Prejudice means a hostile attitude towards a group of people or a person, pre-judging them based on a stereotype (Billingham et al, 2008), for example a prejudice of mine is that since being made redundant from a previous job and it went over to India, I now assume that each job I have it will eventually be taken over by a person in another country. I know this may not be the case in the future.
Some psychotherapists believe that prejudice is a learnt process (nurtured), an indirect view of this is an experiment by Barrett & Short (1992) found that young English children aged between – and 10 years had a clear preference for different European people in countries e.g. the Germans were liked the least and the French were one of the most liked. The children had decided this even if they did not know much about the people, culture or the country.
Sherif (1961) researched at how prejudice is caused in society between different groups. Their aim was to investigate if intergroup conflict happens when a group competes with each other over resources which are scarce. They looked at twenty-two 11 year olds, who were well adjusted and came from a middle class home environment. The boys who were selected to take part in the experiment were sent to a summer camp in America, where they were divided into two groups not having any knowledge of the other group and were given group names; Eagles and Rattlers. The boys would then create a group bond and identity in the first week. The second week experimenters set up competitions with between the two groups, where prizes were offered to members of the winning group.
The experimenters found that there were strong feelings developed between the two groups, which lead to hostility and fighting towards each group. The conclusion to this experiment was that conflict can arise from competition over prizes as these were the scarce resource (only the winning group received them). (Sherif, 1961)
In 1979 Tajfel & Turner developed the Social Identity Theory to understand the psychological basis of discrimination in a group. What they found was that a person can have several ‘selves’ and depending on the social context it may trigger an individual to act differently, that individuals will categorize themselves, then will seek to get positive self-esteem within the group. An example of this from my past is when I was younger I used to hang out with a group, if a higher ranking group member fell out with someone of a lower rank then I would often side with the person who was higher even if I knew they were wrong, making ourselves feel good we would put the other person down, making our self-esteem greater than theirs, that way I would still be in the ‘in-group- and not in the ‘out-group’ being ostracised.
To make the best of a workforce people need to know about equality and diversity, how to act within the laws of society. Everyone has the right to equal opportunities no matter their religion, sexual preference or culture at work, home or whist on the street. Equality protects people that can be discriminated against. Diversity, however, is a range of conditions or characteristics in today’s society e.g. race, people need to respect individual differences. When a workforce or person embraces equality and diversity they comply with anti-discrimination legislation and they can emphasize the positive benefits e.g. they can draw on a wider talent of resources. (Skills for Business, n.d)
In 1950 the European Convention on Human Rights was written to prevent the repeat of the oppression of individual rights after the 1st world war, it stated that everyone has a right to have enough food and a shelter, the United Kingdom signed the convention in 1951. Since then there have been many laws and legislations come into force against discrimination, some of which are;
Equal Pay Acts 1970 & 1983
Prohibiting discrimination of people on the grounds of sex to pay and their terms of contract
Sex Discrimination Act 1975
Prohibiting discrimination of a person’s sex or their marital status. This applies to males & females or if they have had gender reassignment surgery.
Race Relations Act 1976
Prohibiting discrimination of race, colour, ethnic origin or nationality of a person.
Amendment in 2000
There is a duty on public authorities to have due regard to eliminate unlawful discrimination and to promote equality.
Disability Discrimination Act 1995 & 2005
Prohibiting discrimination against a disabled person. Authorities have a duty to promote equality with disability.
(Bayne et al, 2010)
How do I aim to challenge discrimination and promote equality my personal life and within my job role as a social worker?
As a social worker I would try to empower the service user by focusing on their strengths, guiding them to reach a solution, give them the correct advice, be honest and reliable no matter what kind of background they come from.
If I come into contact with someone who discriminate against another, I aim to challenge them, ask them why they feel that way, find out if there are any reasons as to why they feel that way and try to get them to think about their views and try to change them for the better.
I will also think about the impact a service user will have on being excluded from a community or group, I will try to get them included back within their community by arrange for them to help out/volunteer on a local project, by being included back into the community it may help if they have any mental health issues.
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