Waking up in November 2030
November 21, 2023
As I lay down to sleep, my phone rests by my side, a professional hazard for someone plunged in the world of communication requiring constant online presence.
Little did I expect what awaited on that November morning.
I woke up to a staggering 120 hate speech messages on a UNDP post calling on businesses to implement the UN Standards of Conduct for Business with a crucial message: Promote respect for diversity in the workplace. Diversity, after all, is good for business.
The hate messages came from all corners. A music producer with 220,000 followers urged his audience to report UNDP Albania, branding our promotion of LGBTIQ+ rights as unacceptable.
Think about the contradiction in his role: he is expected to entertain and uplift people's spirits through his music, while on the other, he is causing conflict by opposing our cause.
Others resorted to name-calling, using the most vulgar vocabulary imaginable, with many rallying behind these hostile sentiments.
"I was born free. You were born free, with equal rights. He is born free. We are all born free."
In a society where everyone is born free and equal in rights, it's disheartening to witness that some people cannot fully enjoy their rights due to discrimination.
Why does discrimination persist? Who discriminates? Babies are not born haters. It is a learned behavior from us, the adults. We instill discriminatory tendencies in them, shaping their understanding through our actions and contributing to the cycle of societal hate.
I count myself fortunate to have remarkable friends from the LGBTIQ+ community, each possessing exceptional talent and expertise in their respective fields. They carry unique stories of struggles to succeed in the face of discrimination and stigma.
Why do parents cast their children out of their homes upon learning they are gays, lesbians, or transgender?
Denying a child is akin to denying your own DNA. This was also the message of a campaign we spearheaded called "I am your child".
The reality is harsh.
Each time we advocate for the rights and inclusivity of the LGBTIQ+ community, hate speech and discrimination flood our social media. Followers abandon ship.
This leads me to ponder a haunting question: why does such toxic hatred persist in society, and how can we challenge it to create a world where acceptance and love prevail?
Some years ago, Albania joined the UN Free and Equal Campaign to champion the rights of the LGBTIQ+ community.
Over the years, we worked with students, parents, and now businesses to promote LGBTIQ+ rights in the workplace.
Coming out can often jeopardize jobs and lead to discrimination for LGBTIQ+ individuals in Albania.
With the UN Free & Equal campaign, we increased awareness of the private sector's role in promoting equality for LGBTIQ+ individuals and generating tangible improvements in the workplace.
Statistics are outrageous. 67% of those surveyed claim to have suffered discrimination at the workplace.
We met with private sector and civil society partners, providing guidance on respecting the rights of the LGBTIQ+ community based on the UN Standards of Conduct for Business.
Representatives from various companies shared experiences of implementing anti-discrimination policies, also influenced by exposure to UN Free and Equal work in Albania.
But way more is needed.
Companies pledged to “adopt” the UN Standards, but that pledge needs to be translated into tangible actions.
With the aim of advancing awareness and garnering backing for LGBTIQ+ equality within the broader public, we leveraged the influential platforms of the visual arts. Free & Equal Albania supported the Queer Film Festival, incorporating enriching panel discussions around LGBTIQ+ equality.
The tireless efforts of advocates, activists, and organizations continue to break down barriers and foster a world where every individual can embrace their freedom and rights without fear of discrimination.
No matter how disheartened I get when receiving those messages, I firmly believe that the work must go on, even more passionately.
There are no set borders for rights; they are equal for everyone.
I invite you to join the fight for LGBTIQ+ equality.
The sun began to cast its warm glow as I awoke on a November day in the year 2030.
My first instinct was to reach for my phone.
To my delight, UNDP's social media was ablaze with a sea of smiling emojis and positive reactions, a demonstration of the appreciation for our commitment to promoting LGBTIQ+ equality.
As I scrolled through the messages thanking us and UN Free and Equal, I couldn't help but embrace the hope that this positive momentum would endure.
I’d like to believe this.