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Finding Me, Shareen

Updated: May 5, 2023

I'm the daughter of Mauritian immigrants, both parents worked/working in #NHS (I think my mum is aiming for longest serving nurse with 50+ years and counting), I was adamant I would never work in the NHS and 18 years later… I still am!

I always find it uncomfortable when asked about my career journey and “how did you get to where to are?” – like it’s a red pill/blue pill choice – apologies for The Matrix reference!

In truth, it feels like my journey has been by chance and blessings, but I’m not yet sure if that’s my shyness or my great pretender. Either way it’s a bullet point checklist where I skirt around my achievements (such as awkwardly mentioning I was invited to No 10 in recognition of dedication during the pandemic in 2021) and then I reach a certain point where I pause... the now.

a photo of Shareen


But what does it all mean? And what have I learnt from my personal experiences and interactions with others that have formed my conscious thoughts and actions?

“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” Angela Davis

This quote sums up my conscious action. My recent focus in EDI came from intent following on from #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter movements - it has supported me to be able to present myself as myself. I recognise now that over the years I’ve hidden essentials of my “being” for fear of not being accepted or judged, but also hesitation of questions asked about myself that I just won’t know the answer to. How can I talk about who I am when I don’t know how I have become? And who does that make me to others?

With determination I’ve recently been working on the latter; call it #activeallyship (although I’m uncomfortable with the term) or intentional “wokeness” (again not a fan) – there is a burning need to demonstrate the behaviours I needed to see when I was looking around and extremely mindful that people are looking at me to lead by example.

Sidenote: I do see the irony when white colleagues are looking at me to be the example of best behaviour, but that’s another conversation for another time.

Let's talk about the “active allyship” side of me.

I firmly believe that #allies are not permitted to call themselves allies – hence my dislike of the term. People need to demonstrate intentional support in order for communities to recognise them as a trusted person. Imagine buying a new pair of jeans, regardless of the size labelling, until you try them on you don’t know if the fit is for you – it’s the same contract we enter into with people. As an Asian-passing woman, my experiences have taught me to tread carefully with white people who a) say they are an ally, b) say they aren’t racist/biased/“don’t see colour” and c) say nothing at all to recognise that I am different and have different experiences. I admit, I don’t automatically believe the good in people who trigger my nerves and past experiences – this is my trauma. There is work to be done by all, and people need to seek the safe conversations to support the improvements they need to make on themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an invitation to go around and ask everyone who looks different to you, or has a characteristic that is often marginalised, “what is it like for you to experience [INSERT DISCRIMINATION]?” – I strongly advise against that! You wouldn’t ask a survivor of sexual abuse to share their darkest memories freely; it is suffering and there needs to be respect and understanding before the conversations can take place safely for both parties.

If there were any concise thoughts I could offer to someone seeking what to do next, as a safe person with lived experiences of incredibly distressing events, I would sum up with:

  1. Seek understanding through others – be that through conversation, reading or observations. The aim is to improve your own understanding of your #privilege without making assumptions of others. This is in a world where people's experiences aren’t always obvious, nor fair.

  2. Remove the ego – until you have walked in the shoes and faced the negative experiences, you will never truly know the feelings, trauma and reactions that follow on. Part of supporting and advocating for disadvantaged communities is creating spaces where their own voices can be heard to improve the impact of the stories and evoke #intentionalaction.

  3. Lower your defence – it takes a lot of courage for people to speak up and call out discriminatory behaviours as they have seen in their reality. Try not to respond with defence, as this often victimises yourself needlessly. It can also deny the other person's reality.

  4. This is a learning space – from all parties involved, there needs to be a safe space for error. We are all #learning about people's experiences and some of our greatest learning comes with getting things wrong the first time. Even if it is silent self-reflection, take the time to work through your own emotions through this journey.

This is finding me, Shareen Pavaday.


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