by: Jens Schlechter
When talking about disabilities, most of us think about a wheelchair or a blind person. In reality though, the spectrum of impairments is broad including minor disabilities such as arthritis in your hands, slightly impaired hearing, or temporary symptoms of depression. Some of those impairments coincide with growing older and affect a large number of people. Therefore, the majority of disabled persons have several minor impairments creating barriers to their participation in social activities and everyday life. Yet, public policy and awareness raising campaigns tend to focus on persons with one major disability.
It is important to note that barriers disabled persons face to participation in everyday life are not only physical. They also relate to attitudes. The underlying issue is the stigma affixed to having physical or mental impairments. From a young age, we’re wired to associate disabilities with something negative. In movies, for example, a disabled villain is usually contrasted with a morally upright and physically perfect hero. This particularly goes for kids’ movies and TV shows. To name but a few, Captain Hook is the bad guy in Peter Pan and Long John Silver is the cunning and opportunistic pirate with a prosthetic leg in Treasure Island. This negative image of disabled persons creates a cycle of fear. People with disabilities are avoided, leading to ignorance of the barriers they face which in turn results in exclusion and a perpetuation of the negative image.
Eventually, it all comes down to a very simple equation: Impairments + Barriers = Disability. Even though there is an interest in addressing some impairments medically, instead of exclusively focussing on fixing the person with an impairment, we should make greater efforts to remove the social and environmental barriers persons with impairments face.
In a highly interactive, enjoyable, and discussion-based session, the Disability and Equality Training taught us a great deal about being aware of obstacles to inclusion and about how to effectively reduce them.
Too often, the word inclusion is mistakenly used in equality and non-discrimination discourse, when in reality integration is what we are implementing. Simply integrating disabled persons means placing them within the same metaphorical “box” which is adapted for the majority – persons without disabilities. One major take-away from the training was that many adjustments – ranging from awareness and attitude to accessibility and communication – need to be made to the “box” in order to cater for everyone and thereby create an inclusive society
The training was a great kick-off for the diversity month and an amazing learning experience! I can only recommend all of you to make use of the opportunity to get a better understanding of why exclusion still persists and how it can be addressed. I hope there will soon be more opportunities to participate in Disability and Equality Training and that you don’t hesitate to sign up!
The Road to the International Labour Conference
David Seligson, Head of the Manufacturing, Mining and Energy unit at the Sectoral Policies Department of the ILO gave a great "Small Talk" on Wednesday about some of the work behind the pending Report on Global Supply Chains, and shed some light on the process by which it will be address in the International Labour Conference (ILC) later this year. The talk looked at the process of knowledge exchange between the ILO and it's constituents including how the ILO listens to the constituents, builds up new knowledge as well as utilizes existing knowledge.
David made us think about Decent Work in Global Supply/Value Chains and made the link with the Rana Plaza tragedy in the RMG sector. He showed us something very interesting called "The smiling curve" regarding the value added along the Global Value Chains (GVC) and the changes from the 1970s. He explained to us how this particularly affects developing countries since there's more value at the early and late stages of the chain, and less value at the manufacturing middle stages, where production engages with developing countries. Lastly, he mentioned some of the issues that will be considered in the ILC, such as the implications of GSCs on job creation, skills development, distribution of employment, and working conditions, including wages, working time and occupational safety and health.
We were very happy to ask our questions to him and know more about the opportunities and challenges that come with GVCs and how they contribute and benefit from ILO's work. Wednesday's talk gave us a great overview of the different aspects to be discussed at the next ILC, and we hope that very positive consensus will be achieved over important topics such as how to prevent tragedies (such Rana Plaza) from happening again. We look forward to get our hand on that upcoming report. Thanks a lot David!
The road to the ILC (wearing intern boots)
Claire Potdevin, hard working intern of the unit, shared her experiences in the making of the report. We were delighted to listen to how our fellow intern contributed to it with her skills and dedication.
Intern's contribution is huge and we were really happy to listen to her talking about the interesting things she learned in the process and also about the difficulties she managed to overcome. She told us about the great number of contributors and input received in the making of the report and how balancing the different views can be quite a challenge sometimes. She reminded us as well that making sure that everything is in order and has a proper reference comes with the job and it can be quite a challenge in some cases!
Lastly, we'd like to briefly use this space to show our respect and appreciation to her for her hard work on this project and for sharing her experiences with us. Thanks a lot Clair, you made us proud this week!
By: Jens Schlechter
The survey Living wage of Interns 2016 is an initiative of the ILO Intern Board to work towards improving the overarching conditions framing the internship experience. Since money can be quite a pressing issue in an expensive place like Geneva we wondered, how ILO interns cope with the stipend. Obviously, everybody somehow manages to survive on our 1895 CHF monthly stipend, even though it is below the national poverty line of 2200 CHF. We are very interested to see how you make ends meet, to what extent you have been forced to adjust your lifestyle during your time here, and – most importantly – if you feel secure in the environment that you live in.
Moreover, increasing the regional and socio-economic diversity of the ILO internship programme is a priority for both the Intern Board and the Human Resource Department. Therefore, knowing if interns are dependent on savings or supplementary incomes throughout the course of the internship is important to get an idea of how accessible the ILO really is. Is access to savings and alternative incomes a key factor that enables participation?
Representatives of the Intern Board regularly meet with the Human Resource Department to discuss topics related to professional welfare. We are super curious about the results and we expect that they will help us get to grips with strategies to further improve the internship experience at the ILO.
If you haven't done it already, please take a moment and answer the survey:
By: Sîan Parkinson
Waking up before the sun isn`t how we`d normally choose to start our weekends, but last Saturday that`s exactly what a group of ILO interns and former interns signed up for. It was our own little ski social, kindly (and superbly) organised by our Social Officer Simone!
We spent the day skiing, snowboarding and building snowmen on the slopes of Grand Massif. With a mixture of abilities, the slopes catered for all and lunch gave us a chance to regroup.
Early start, falling, skis and snowballs to the face aside, it was a really enjoyable day and we`re very much looking forward to the next!
On the 23rd of September, ILO interns who have registered will have the opportunity to participate in the third annual Intern Development Day. The day-long event is designed by the Intern Board in collaboration with the Human Resources Department, and has been in the planning phases for at least the past three months. This year, it includes “Global Citizens”, CV and interviewing, and former intern sessions that feature speakers from around the ILO and beyond, as well as a coffee break and apéro to network with all participating parties (supervisors, speakers, coordinators, and other interns). The Director-General, Guy Ryder, will also give a welcome address and take a group photo with participants in the afternoon.
In anticipation of this big event, Lorraine Wong, former intern and current ILO staff member, reflects on her experience at last year’s IDD.
How would you describe your experience at last year’s IDD?
The last Intern Development Day took place on the 3rd day of my work. As a new-comer of the ILO back then, I had the opportunity to meet both interns and their supervisors. From these personal conversations and connections I made, I couldn't think of a better way to learn about my work place. The bonus point was certainly to meet interns back then. Many of them also moved on to consultancy and short term positions, in which we often have lunch together still today.
What was the most useful or interesting seminar you attended?
While there were career-oriented CV writing seminars and the address from the Director General, in my opinion, my favorite part was the final cocktail session where I could meet supervisors and learn about their work in a less formal way.
Did this event have any impact on your professional career at the ILO?
This event really helped me to be natural in meeting co-workers in a professional setting. As I joined the ILO as an intern straight out of school, I realized making friends at work was nothing like the first day of my Master's program. People are certainly more interested in projects one has accomplished before.
Why is it beneficial for interns to attend IDD?
I would highly recommend that anyone new to the workplace be more engaged with the organization, and IDD was certainly a great way to learn about organizational structure and the faces who keep the wheels moving.
Do you have any advice for interns about how to make the most of the event this year?
Go with a big smile. The IDD is a great ice-breaker paving way to learn more about this organization – after all, it's a scary building with lots of great minds.
All interns should have received an e-mail invitation to IDD and should have registered online. For more agenda details, visit the IDD Facebook event page.
Lorraine Wong, from Hong Kong/Canada, 26 years old