Equity, Diversity and Inclusion is a top priority for Afsana. EDI is a term used to describe the promotion, representation and participation of people from various groups and diverse backgrounds as defined by the Canadian Constitution.
Afsana believes everyone has the right to be fully represented, whether you are a client or an ADR professional.
For clients, in most cases, it is essential that they are represented by a person who understands their diversity or comes from a similar background. Managing cultural and religious differences can help build trust with the client and provide a better understanding of the issues during mediation. There are many values to mediating with someone who is culturally competent and has good intercultural communication skills. Of course, this may not apply to all cases, however, it is important to remain cognizant of the issues.
Afsana recognizes the lack of diversity in the ADR profession. Following extensive research, she uncovered many barriers faced by racialized and marginalized mediators and arbitrators. As a result, Afsana has written her program ‘Cultural Competency in Mediation” which builds awareness of the needs and values of diverse practitioners, as Canada continues to expand its immigrant population. Canada is one of the top 20 multicultural countries in the world.
In April 2022, the Ontario Bar Association released their report, Neutral diversity in Ontario which explores the gender and racial gaps in the ADR profession. The report has made recommendations on how to increase diversity in Ontario and support those entering the profession.
During Afsana’s program, ‘Cultural Competence in Mediation’, she shared a diversity calendar as one of the tools to raise awareness. Since then, she has posted her calendar on social media platforms every month and is now widely used among her network. Click here to find this month’s calendar. Since this program was launched in 2020, Afsana has expanded the program to a workshop that provides practice tips to help build humility and better intercultural skills.
Afsana has become a recognized advocate for equity, diversity and inclusion among cross-sector professionals. She is often asked to attend speaking engagements by legal and educational institutions at an international level. She has also taken steps to ensure neutrals from marginalized groups are visible by creating a roster through the Diversified Dispute Resolution Institute of Canada. Afsana is the co-founder and Senior Vice President of this not-for-profit organization and helps marginalized groups who wish to pursue a career in dispute resolution gain the necessary education and experience for a successful career.