Scots supermodel Eunice Olumide has given her backing to a new initiative providing professional and personal support to minority ethnic people during the COVID-19 pandemic. The project has been announced by Edinburgh-based social enterprise AAI EmployAbility (AAI).
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities disproportionately. Out of every 2,000 coronavirus patients, 35% are non-white, despite BAME individuals making up only 13% of the UK population (Intensive Care Covid-19 Report). Although the reasons for this are not fully understood, social and economic inequality are influences.
Minority ethnic individuals were already disproportionately underemployed pre-COVID with UK youth unemployment studies reporting 26% of black, and 23% of Pakistani, individuals out of work as opposed to just 11% for white individuals. Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities consistently have high rates of poverty, as do Black, Chinese and other ethnic communities. (UK Poverty 2017)
These conditions were exacerbated by the arrival of COVID-19. Chinese in Scotland were the targets of abuse and violence as the virus reached the UK. The current conversations of inclusion and equality fuelled by the #BlackLivesMatter movement have further exposed the challenges experienced by people from differing minority ethnic backgrounds. The daily concerns of a UK-born black man will differ radically to those of a Pakistani woman living in the UK, highlighting the problematic grouping of the BAME banner.
Backed by the Scottish Government’s Wellbeing Fund, AAI’s 6-week ‘Diversity Works’ virtual support programme will focus on individual empowerment and is designed to provide people with the tools to improve their personal and professional circumstances. The participants will discuss their circumstances with the AAI team and specialist consultants before a path of tailored support is put in place.
Olumide has a portfolio of businesses involved in art, publishing, film, television and her own clothing and accessories range. She received an MBE in 2017 for her work in the arts and charity.
"I've been an activist for social justice over nearly a decade. Finally, people are now focusing on race, equality and diversity and taking action. Some incredibly positive things are happening, but the pandemic has really affected people's lives. It's imperative that organisations take this seriously and back it up with action. Having been a part of AAI's diversity work in the past, I'm excited to see this next step in support for black and minority ethnic people in Scotland"
The first group event will be held via Zoom on June 24.
Transformational Coach, Reham Nasr, said:
“The pandemic has had an incredible impact on the job market and people’s personal finances. The added strain of lockdown, and the current discussions of racism and wider societal change has put a huge strain on home life and wellbeing. This project looks to address all of these issues head-on, and offer people a semblance of control through the current uncertainty.”
Project Manager, Nick Murray, said:
“Through our ongoing work with different BAME communities we know there is no one-size-fits-all solution for the various issues people currently face. This programme offers person-centred support and tools via online training and the emphasis is on enabling participants to take what they have learned, and apply it to their own lives within their individual culture and circumstances.”
AAI has successfully delivered several employment support projects for BAME communities over the last 3 years, with Scottish Government grants, using AAI staff members representing 3 different subsections of BAME.