Ramadan 2021

by
Student representatives of the Reading Islamic Society
Hatty Taylor and Nozomi Tolworthy, UoR Diversity and Inclusion Advisors   

 

What is Ramadan? 

Ramadan marks the month when the Holy Quran is said to have been revealed to Prophet Muhammad PBUH by Allah (God). This is observed by a month-long fast. 

Muslims around the world abstain from food and drink for 30 days, including water, during daylight hours (from dawn to dusk), as a means of celebrating and reflecting on their faith. 

Fasting at Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam – the fundamental rules that all Muslims follow. Find out more about the five pillars of Islam in this video: Islam, the Quran, and the Five Pillars’. 

 

 

 

When is Ramadan?  

Ramadan is the 9th month in the Islamic Lunar Calendar which consists of 12 months in a year of 354/55 days. In Arabic, this is called the Hijri Calendar and started with the migration of Prophet Muhammed PBUH to Madinah from Makkah 1442 years ago.

Due to the Islamic Calendar being based on the different phases of the moon, each of the months move back around 10 days each year. So, Ramadan could be in the middle of summer in 2015 and be in December by 2030This year, Ramadan begins on Monday 12th April, and will end on Wednesday 12th May. 

 

 

 

Who Takes Part in Fasting?  

Every Muslim should take part in Fasting, unless 

  • You’re too oldIf you have reached an age where abstaining from water or food is too difficult or impossible, then you do not and should not fast.  

 

  • You’re too young – Generally, children below the age of 14 do not fast, as it is too difficult physically but also because they do not fully understand the meaning and the spiritual importance of fasting.  

 

  • You’re traveling – Travelling is an excuse not to fast for the day/days you are fasting as it can be exhausting to travel and would therefore require food and water. However, the days you missed should be made up after Ramadan is over. The aim should be to have completed all 30 days of Ramadan fast before the next Ramadan.  

 

  • You’re sick – Whether you have a long-term or short-term illness, you are excused from fasting if fasting would make the illness worse or if it is simply impossible to abstain from food/water.  

If you have started the day fasting, but felt dizzy or sick, then you should immediately break your fast. Similarly, women who are experiencing their menstrual cycle are also exempt from fasting as the physical body is in a much weaker state and therefore requires nourishment.  

 

 

Top 10 Tips  

  • Plan Your Meals
    Eat fruits filled with water such as cucumber and watermelon to help with thirst during the day.
    Eat slow burning foods for suhoor such as porridge.
    Avoid fried foods!!! 

 

  • Plan your Study Schedule
    Some people prefer studying in the early afternoon, others prefer studying after Iftar when you’re no longer hungry and can focus much better. Find what works best for you and make a routine. 

 

  • Stay Consistent
    This is a month of reflection, so try to stay away from social media and TV which could distract you from your intentions of this month. 

 

  • Go on a Walk after Iftar!
    This will help digest the food better, make you feel energised and prepare you for 
    taraweeh 

 

  • Nap
    between 
    Duhr and Asr (if you don’t want to look like a zombie during iftar and it’s a beautiful Sunnah).

 

  • Keep Motivated
    Make a realistic Ramadan goal list and hang it up
    Make a list for the reasons for fasting to keep you motivated during the low-imaan Days
    Prepare a Ramadan playlist to listen to throughout Ramadan (Quran or lectures/podcasts) 

 

  • Learn/Implement New Habits
    that you can carry on after Ramadan – everyone has high imaan and the shaytan is locked up, a great excuse to implement small daily habits such as saying daily duas or giving a pound a day to charity or even improving our vocabulary.  

 

  • Evaluate and Reflect Throughout Ramadan
    Take time, even just 5 minutes, every night to check if you’re still on track to achieving yours goals, if not slightly amend them or work super hard the next daySince Ramadan is the month of the Quran, aim to read the Quran from beginning to end in this month, if you can, and reflect on the meanings. 

 

  • Plan to Spend as Much Time as Possible
    with 4 – your family, Allah, the Quran, yourself 

 

  • Enjoy Ramadan and Get Excited for Eid! 

 

 

 

 

How to Support Those who are Fasting  

If you do not observe the month of Ramadan, you can help Muslim family, friends, coursemates and colleagues by:

 

  • Trying not to schedule meetings around evening time (dusk) when the fast for the day ends, so they can eat on time.
  • Additionally, don’t schedule catch-ups over a lunch or dinner, as you will be the only one eating.
  • Don’t make a big deal about eating. Most Muslims don’t mind if you eat/drink near them so long as you’re not in their face about it.
  • Try not to get them involved in strenuous activities which could be tiring – otherwise it could make them feel even more weaker. 

 

  • Be understanding if they need more time in day-to-day activities, as time must be taken out for prayers. 

 

  • If you notice a Muslim peer not fasting for the day, don’t question it; they have their reasons for not doing so. 

 

  • Show your encouragement with kind gestures and words.    

 

  • Ask them how you could support them through this month e.g., any adjustments that may need to be made. Everyone’s needs are different, so it’s best to ask individually. 

 

  • Once Eid celebrations begin (which marks the end of Ramadan), wish your Muslim peers an Eid Mubarak, it means a lot! 

 

 

 

Further Resources 

 

 

  • Islam In Brief – An introduction to the teachings and history of Islam, from Harvard University

 

  • Islam, the Quran, and the Five Pillars – John Green teaches the history of Islam, including the revelation of the Quran to Muhammad PBUH, the five pillars of Islam, how the Islamic empire got its start, the Rightly Guided Caliphs, and more

 

  • Anyone is welcome to join a collection of online events which are educational or in celebration of Ramadan by following the link to – Big Virtual Iftar

Faith or no faith, you’re all welcome to join us at the #bigvirtualiftar events via YouTube Live! Join the Muslim community in solidarity in this year’s month of #Ramadan during the ongoing #COVID19 crisis with people impacted by #lockdowns & #socialdistancing.We usually invite our non-Muslim friends from local communities to our Mosques to join us for the Big Iftar Dinner and we host them in a pleasant evening to talk about interfaith matters and to break bread with us. However, due to the current restrictions, so we would like to invite you to our virtual events which will consist of online live talks, a virtual tour of Britain’s biggest Mosque, National Fasting Challenge, personal stories of Muslims impacted by COVID-19, question & answer sessions and to watch people breaking a fast live.” 

 

  • The Muslim Council of Britain – This webpage shares guidelines, advice and signposting resources to help Muslims in Britain make the most of the blessed month, as well as friends, neighbours and colleagues of Muslims. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating International Trans Day of Visibility and Autism Awareness Week

by Hatty Taylor and Nozomi Tolworthy, Diversity and Inclusion Advisors at the University of Reading

 

 

International Trans Day of Visibility is an annual event, occurring on 31st March that is dedicated to celebrating trans people and raising awareness of discrimination faced globally by people whose gender does not align with that which was assigned to them at birth.  

World Autism Awareness Week (29th March – 4th April) is an opportunity to celebrate individuals with autism as well as encouraging awareness and education of challenges faced by those individuals.  

You may think these two events are unconnected, but we would like to shine a light on the unique experiences of people with autism, who also identify as trans or non-binary. 

Recent data suggests that trans and nonbinary people are ‘three to six times as likely to be autistic as cisgender people are. According to the largest study yet to examine the connection, gender-diverse people are also more likely to report autism traits and to suspect they have undiagnosed autism.’  An analysis of five unrelated databases that all include information about autism, mental health and gender has led to these conclusions. You can read more about it here – Largest study to date confirms overlap between autism and gender diversity.
 

 

The National Autistic society also highlights this intersection of identities, and shares some personal stories which can really help us to understand the unique experiences of those who identify as trans, non-binary and as a person with autism:

 

Sophie Gribbena non-binary autistic person, talks about celebrating Pride Month. They said: 

“One of the things I have difficulty with is attending Pride festivities. I am sensitive to noise, and crowds, but if I am properly accommodated then I really enjoy myself!”

 

Dr Wenn Lawsonautistic advocate, researcher, and psychologist, said: 

 ”The non-autistic world is governed by social and traditional expectations, but we may not notice these or fail to see them as important. This frees us up to connect more readily with our true gender.”

 

Researchers across several Universities contributed to a paper – Autism and transgender identity: Implications for depression and anxietywhich looks into this connection, and also highlights the increased risk of common mental health issues for people with these intersecting characteristics.  

 

In addition to the increased risk of mental health issues, trans people who also have autism often face barriers from health care professionals, who can undermine their trans identity, as explained in this article – The link between autism and trans identity It also highlights the ways in which the implications of this correlation are proving problematic and sometimes tragic for trans, autistic communitiesPlease be advised that the article relates to Kayden Clarke, a trans autistic man who was killed by police in the US, and therefore contains some upsetting content that you may not want to read.  

 

 

Intersectionality  

Intersectionality – This word has been used a lot more recentlyHere is short video where Kimberlé Crenshaw talking about what intersectionality means and the origin of the term.

It is crucial that we understand that people do not have protected characteristics in isolation, that marginalised groups exist within marginalised groups, and by beginning to hold these conversations, we create space for learning about each other, networking, supporting one another.  Multiple protected characteristics can also influence each other, exacerbate challenges and make barriers even taller than they would be without additional considerations. By talking about identities within marginalised groups, we can make steps in starting to see each other as the complex, multi-faceted beings that we are, with unique experiences and identities.  

It is important to note that though there may be a higher correlation of autistic individuals in the trans community this in no way suggests that the majority of trans individuals should be assumed to have autism, or that the majority of individuals with autism are trans. It’s important to recognise that larger more comprehensive studies need to be conducted on the topic which better reflect trans and autistic people’s views and experiences and how these experiences overlap. 

 

 

Events  

We have collated several external online events which you can attend in the coming days/weeks to learn more about autism, and trans identitiesJoin celebrations and even watch a film screening. Lockdown has never looked so exciting!   

 

  • Thinking Differently about Autism at Work

Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion (ENEI)

Wed, 31 March 2021, 09:30 – 12:30 BST

UoR are members of ENEI, and all staff and students can register for FREE using their ‘@reading.ac.uk’ email address via this link

 

 

  • Bi, Trans & Non-Binary Intersectionality: a Parallel Journey to Acceptance

Global Butterflies, The London Bisexual Network and the Law Society

Wed, 31 March 2021, 12:30 – 13:30 BST

To mark Trans Day of Visibility 2021, Global Butterflies, the London Bisexual Network and the Law Society are partnering to host a panel on the intersectionality between being Trans or Non-Binary and Bisexual.

Register for FREE via this link

 

 

  • Spring Feast 2021: Virtual LGBTQ2S Family Celebration

The 519 EarlyON Child and Family Centre

Wed, March 31, 2021, 15:30 – 16:30 BST

Register for FREE via this link

 

 

  • Trans Day of Visibility – Screening of Disclosure

University College Dublin Students Union

Wed, 31 March 2021, 18:30 – 20:00 BST 

Register for FREE via this link

 

 

  • 2021 Transgender Day of Visibility

Transgender Health and Wellness Center

Wed, Mar 31, 2021 23:00 – Thurs, Apr 1, 2021 01:00 BST 

Register for FREE via this link

 

 

  • Trans Presence: Beyond Visibility Panel

Play Out Apparel and SelectHealth  Thurs, April 1, 2021, 01:00 – 02:30 BST

Live stories & music, a raw unfiltered panel discussion about trans diverse experiences, & more! On Transgender Day of Visibility, this event is going beyond visibility by sharing inspiring, informative, and diverse trans stories, spotlighting artists, and presenting important information about accessing health services.

Register for FREE via this link

 

 

  • Trans Inclusion Training

University of Reading

Mon, 17 May 2021, 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM BST

This is FREE to attend

Staff can register on UoRLearn via this link

Students can email diversity@reading.ac.uk to register 

 

 

 

 

Further Resources 

Autism and Gender Identity | National Autistic Society 
https://www.autism.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/what-is-autism/autism-and-gender-identity
 

Trans Day of Visibility | LGBT Foundation 
https://lgbt.foundation/who-we-help/trans-people/trans-day-of-visibility
 

The urgency of intersectionality | Kimberlé Crenshaw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akOe5-UsQ2o 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LGBT+ History Month: Pronouns

Collaboratively written by:
Allán Laville, Dean for Diversity and Inclusion  

Alina Tryfonidou, LGBT+ Staff Network Co-Chair 
Ruvi Ziegler, LGBT+ Staff Network Co-Chair  
Gemma Fitz, LGBT+ Staff Network Lead Ally 
Nozomi Tolworthy, Diversity and Inclusion Advisor 
Hatty Taylor, Diversity and Inclusion Advisor  
Lennox Bruwer, RUSU Transgender Students Officer 

 

 

 

Pronouns

Words we use to refer to people’s gender in conversation – for example, ‘he’ or ‘she’. Some people may prefer others to refer to them in gender neutral language and use pronouns such as they/their and ze/zir. 

(Stonewall Glossary of Terms) 

 

In February 2019, we launched Pronoun Badges across the University of Reading for all staff and students to pick up for free. This was a collaborative project between UoR’s LGBT+ Action Plan Group, the central D&I Team and RUSU. The aim of creating pronoun badges and distributing them across campuses was to start creating positive cultural change across our UoR community.  

However, over the last year, we’ve all been working more digitally and less on campus, or at least, around each other in person. As we’ve been communicating with each other more online, we may have noticed more people including their pronouns on their social media profiles and email signatures instead. Afterall, we’re not wearing our lanyards whilst on Teams! 

But why are people doing this and why is it important?  

 

 

Why Are Pronouns Important?

We initially wrote about the importance of pronouns in our blog piece back in February 2019 – Pronoun Badges at the University of Reading. 

We want our trans and non-binary colleagues and students to know, as well as our cisgender colleagues and students, that we not only support but encourage their expression of their gender identity. We want to recognise and respect the entire spectrum of gender and do all that we can to represent and celebrate the diverse community of identities that we have at Reading. 

We’re also more likely to be meeting colleagues and students online now. As such, by including our pronouns in our digital presence, such as in our email signature, we are able to quickly and easily self-identify and indicate to the people we are talking to the correct pronoun to use when referring to ourselves 

When pronouns are clearly displayed alongside our name, we can all challenge immediate assumptions that might be made about gender. Assumptions might be made based on physical appearance, the spelling of our names and sometimes perhaps even based on our job role. This can lead to misgendering.    

For many people, worrying about which pronoun others use to address them might not have ever been a problem. Not everybody has this privilege of a visible gender identity. When referred to someone with the wrong pronoun, an individual can feel disrespected, invalidated, and alienated. Similar to when another person might consistently pronounce or spell your name incorrectly. These are significant elements of our identities and so are important to get right. Inclusion is key in making us all feel psychologically safe at work and consequently, be able to be our authentic self.  

Our everyday language is rife with gender associations, and this may go unnoticed if you have never given much thought to your own gender identity or expression. For someone who has experienced any incongruence with the gender assigned to them at birth, the language we use can be a daily reminder of their struggle. Try to spot times in your language where you are making assumptions about gender. For example, rather than using “he or she” when talking about a hypothetical situation, substitute “they.” 

We can’t tell what someone’s pronouns are by looking at them. Knowing and using the correct pronouns for someone is a positive way for us to support the people we work with. It also makes our working and learning environment more comfortable and safer for everyone.  

By taking a small and simple step such as including our pronouns in our email signatures, we can show that we care about and respect the people we work with and move towards becoming a more inclusive organisation.  

 

 

“As a trans person, it can be disheartening to be the only person in your network including your pronouns in your email signature, and many of us avoid sharing our pronouns, and can endure misgendering as a result. When I see my peers and colleagues sharing their own pronouns in their email signatures, the act feels normalised, and I feel safer to share my own pronouns.” 

Lennox Bruwer, RUSU Transgender Students Officer 

 

 

 

Allyship

One of the most important aspects of being an ally is visibility. By showing your support and being proactive, you are helping to create a safe and inclusive space for our LGBT+ community. Stating your own pronoun preferences in your email signatures and other digital resources helps by making this become standard practice and encourages our LGBT+ staff and students to feel comfortable and confident doing the same.   

 

“As an ally, I have found it very useful for everyone to state their own pronouns when introducing themselves within a meeting. I first saw this approach being used in the Stonewall events and meetings that I have attended, and I think this is best practice.” 

Allán Laville, Dean for Diversity and Inclusion  

 

 

FAQs 

How do I ask someone what their pronouns are?  

If you are being introduced to someone, you can start by stating your own pronouns. This helps by giving them the opportunity to share theirs too but also lets them know they are talking to an ally.  

You can ask someone what their pronouns are, or how they like to be referred to, in the same way you would ask someone their name. Also, listen and follow their lead on how they refer to themselves. It is always better to ask rather than assume or guess, however remember that not everyone may want to share their pronouns. If this is the case, do not press the matter and use neutral pronouns such as them/they. Neutral pronouns should also be used in situations where it is not appropriate to ask or if you are in doubt.   

 

What do I do if I use the wrong pronoun for someone?  

Do not panic or make it into a bigger deal than it needs to be. Quickly apologise, correct yourself and move on. We all slip up sometimes, out of habit or forgetfulness, the important thing is to show you are genuinely making an effort to use the correct pronouns and that you apologise when you get it wrong.  

 

 

 

Further Resources

For more information on LGBT History Month www.lgbtplushistorymonth.co.uk 

10 ways to step up as an ally to non-binary people – Stonewall Staff  

Talking about pronouns in the workplace – Human Rights Campaign Foundation  

Pronouns 101: Why They matter and What To Do (and Not Do) If You Misgender Someone – Kay Martinez  

 

 

What Matters Most

by Rory Williams-Burrell, Trainee Technician, School of Archaeology, Geography, and Environmental Science (SAGES) 

 

The Year 2020 has been a challenging one for our staff and students here at the University. Significant changes had to be made regarding the way we work and the way that we live. The world stage has not only highlighted the stresses surrounding Covid-19, but also that deep change is needed in our thinking around ‘race and gender’. This need for change was clearly highlighted in May this year due to the abhorrent behaviour and murderous act that led to the death of George Floyd. This act of racial hatred sparked rallies and marches across the world to show how racism is still prevalent today and that it needs to stop.

The extent to which racism and sexism is present in our everyday lives needs to be addressed, as well as the detrimental effect discrimination can have on our wellbeing. The term ‘race’ is often misunderstood. It derives from France and Italy in the 15th century, and the meaning behind the term translates as kind, breed, and lineage. This also incorporates the physical characteristics of skin colour, eye colour and facial form. This crosses over when we look at ‘gender’ which can be defined as having three aspects, each with an association spectrum. These three aspects are ‘gender identity’, which is how a person identifies themselves, ‘gender expression’, which relates to their behaviour, dress and how others perceive their gender, and ‘biological sex’, which depends on a person’s mostly physical characteristics, for example, these include a person’s genitalia, body shape, body shape, voice, body / facial hair, hormone balance etc.

Deep change is also needed in the ‘disability’ sector, surrounding physical and mental health. One definition could be that being disabled takes away the elements from you that make you able. For example, this could relate to a wheelchair user who requires more space for social distancing purposes than others. In another instance someone may not be able to wear a mask due to asthma and therefore keeping more than two meters away is important for their health and well-being.

 

I am a member of the Well-being Peer Support team here at the University of Reading. Our members consist of staff volunteers (not counsellors or mental-health advisors) who are trained to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental health issues, whatever the cause, and can guide you to the right support. The Well-being Peer Support network is primarily geared towards staff members where we provide a space for listening and conversation with strict confidentiality in place. You can contact the network through: https://www.reading.ac.uk/human-resources/policies-and-procedures/health-and-wellbeing/wellbeing-peer-support#. Through the link above you will be able to see a list of our volunteers and be able to choose who to approach and speak to.

If you are a student at the university, there is a wide range of support and guidance available for you including being able to access links to professional counsellors and mental health advisors who can be reached 24/7: https://www.reading.ac.uk/essentials/Support-And-Wellbeing

There is also an excellent Wellbeing Toolkit produced by Student Services, with lots of useful advice and helpful links: https://www.reading.ac.uk/essentials/-/media/essentials/files/wellbeing-toolkit-nov.pdf

A particularly helpful resource presents five steps to well-being and shows how making small changes in our daily lives can result in a range of positive outcomes: https://www.reading.ac.uk/human-resources/working-at-reading/health-and-wellbeing/5-steps-to-wellbeing

 

There are of course many more steps to maintaining one’s wellbeing, particularly at this challenging time, and I have tried to focus my attention on implementing changes in my own life. Over the years I have been researching and finding ways to help myself through episodes of depression that started during childhood. When I was a toddler, I suffered a head injury when I was hit by a car and I was placed in intensive care for over three months. I was lucky to survive and I am forever grateful to have had the support over the years that have got me to where I am today. I would never have imagined that I would get through, school, college and then a university degree. So, I urge you, please, not suffer in silence but to seek support when needed. It is important that our University looks out for everyone, especially at this time of uncertainty.

 

There is a great podcast I recommend hosted by a British physician, Dr. Rangan Chatterjee, entitled ‘Feel better live more’. Dr. Chatterjee talks of four pillars of health; these pillars are nutrition, exercise, sleep, and meditation. I have tried and am still trying to create habits surrounding these four pillars. These actions have helped me reflect and change my perspective and outlook on life and I hope that they will be able to help others too.

Educating Ourselves: actively opposing racism and promoting racial tolerance

post by Nozomi Tolworthy 雷希望, Diversity and Inclusion Advisor, adapted for the #DiverseReading blog

 

Click Here to Access Relevant Resources

 

As an individual who discusses and works in diversity, inclusion and representation most days, I’ve been lost for words recently.

There is no singular way for us to show up. What is most important is that we do the work that we can and it’s okay for this work to look different depending on our emotional capacity, financial circumstances, physical ability and personal situations. As long as we remain collectively committed to educating ourselves and those around us so we can change the systems we live in.

After seeing so many resources and helpful information being shared on social media over the last week, I’ve collected some of what others have shared and some resources I have learnt from, and put this together with the intention to help myself and those around me gain a better and more thorough understanding of racism and the anti-racist work we can all be doing.

To be anti-racist is to be a person who (actively) opposes racism and promotes racial tolerance.

It means ‘checking your privilege’, challenging our white* privilege and admitting how we might have benefited from a system of oppression in ways we have not considered before.
It means having conversations with our families, friends, colleagues, communities about race, even if it’s uncomfortable.
It means trying our best to educate ourselves on the history we might not have taught in school, on what we can do now.
It means showing up for Black folks** and striving for racial justice.
It means standing against overt and covert white supremacy and racism, from now on and always.

We are all educating ourselves and (un)learning at our own pace and investing our energy in ways that we can. We’ve been seeing a lot of information and resources shared across various platforms and I am finding it helpful to collect what I am seeing, so that I can continuously educate myself.

 

I hope you might too.

 

This document is by no means an exhaustive list and I hope to be able to continue to come back to it and update it with new knowledge and understanding over time. If you have any suggestions for additions, please let me know.

Click Here to Access Relevant Resources

 

White Fragility is when a white person feels uncomfortable about conversations around race. It can make you feel like you have to tone down your experiences with racism to make the person feel comfortable. Honor yourself by reclaiming the right to honestly express when something does not sit well in your body.

(‘white fragility’ infographic credit to @ogorchukwuu on Instagram)

 

*“When I write about white people … I don’t mean every individual white person. I mean whiteness as a political ideology …The politics of whiteness transcends the colour of anyone’s skin. It is an occupying force in the mind. It is a political ideology that is concerned with maintaining power through domination and exclusion. Anyone can buy into it, just like anyone can choose to challenge it.” (Eddo-Lodge, 2017)

**Whilst non-Black People of Colour (POC) also face racism, Black folks are suffering disproportionately under white supremacy and right now they need our support and attention.

 

 

 

Chinese New Year 2019 – Year of the Pig

Guest post by Nozomi Tolworthy 雷希望, Reading University Students’ Union (RUSU) Diversity Officer 2018/19

(This article includes Chinese words and phrases with Cantonese and Mandarin pronunciations respectively)

When is Chinese New Year?

Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year as it follows a traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar whose dates indicate both the phase of the moon and the time of the solar year. This coming Chinese New Year is on Tuesday 05 February 2019.

Why is 2019 the “Year of the Pig”?

Each year is represented by one of 12 Chinese Zodiac animals. 2019 is the year of the pig.

Chinese Zodiac: https://banner2.kisspng.com/20180328/fxw/kisspng-chinese-zodiac-chinese-calendar-chinese-new-year-zodiac-5abc0167b80006.4694013715222705677537.jpg

The zodiac system was originally connected with worship of animals and has existed in Chinese culture since the Qin dynasty which was around 2,000 years ago! As such, the zodiac signs play an integral part in Chinese culture. Each animal has different characteristics and meanings which is often used to determine a person’s fortune and luck for the coming year and even their compatibility with other zodiacs. This is the order they are in: rat (鼠 – syu / shǔ) ox (牛 – ngau / niú) tiger (虎 – fu / hǔ) rabbit (兔 – tou / tù) dragon (龙 – lung / lóng) snake (蛇 – se / shé) horse (马 – maa / mǎ) goat (羊 – yeung / yang) monkey (猴 – hau / hóu) rooster (鸡 – gai / jī) dog (狗 – gau / gǒu) pig (猪 – zyu / zhū)

How do people celebrate?

Chinese New Year is celebrated by more than 20% of the world. The celebrations are not limited to China. Hong Kong, Laos, South Korea, Singapore, Vietnam and many Asian countries celebrate Chinese New Year as a national holiday. Usually, celebrations begin on Chinese New Year Eve and can last around 15 days.

Before celebrations kick off, it is tradition for people to clean their houses thoroughly, almost like having a big ‘spring clean’. Decorations are then displayed once the house is clean. Chinese New Year is a time for family, and this is seen as the most important part of the holiday.

What do the decorations mean?

Decorations for Chinese New Year are predominantly red, as the colour red represents happiness and good fortune. Here are some popular decorations used for Chinese New Year:

Fortune ( – fuk / fú)

Fortune pin badge, Photo credit Nozomi Tolworthy

Certain words are displayed during Chinese New Year. The most common is 福 meaning happiness and good fortune. It is often displayed on square red paper and put up on doors, windows and walls around homes and commercial buildings. Many like to put 福 upside down. The word for ‘upside down’ (倒 – dou / dào) is a homophone of the word for ‘here’ (到). This pun represents that good fortune is coming, or is already here.

Paper Cutting Arts (窗花 – coeng faa / chuāng huā)

福 is often incorporated into other decorations such as paper cutting arts. This is a folk craft that is usually seen on windows with the literal translation meaning ‘window flower’. The images on these decorations often include fish (a pun for blessings), grains (representing hope for a good harvest) as well as dragons and peaches (symbols from folktales and legends). The zodiac for the year is often the image on these decorations too.

Lanterns ( – dang lung / dēng lóng)

There are often different activities for each day of the Chinese New Year holidays, often including the lantern festival. Some places still release lanterns for the festival, but for environmental reasons, many people choose to simply display their lanterns at home. There are many different styles of lanterns that are displayed ranging from red spheres to dragons!

Red Packets

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Red packets / red pocket / red envelope… There are many names for these little red gifts! But all of these 红包 (hung bau / hóng bāo) contain money. The money inside is known as 压岁钱 (aat seoi cin / yā suì qián). This translated means ‘money to anchor the year(s)’ hence it’s known as ‘lucky money’. It is tradition for elders to give them to children in hope of passing on good fortune and blessings for the year to come. Younger generations also commonly give their elders red packets as a sign of gratitude and as a blessing of longevity.

New Year’s Visits

Red packets, fruit, candy and cakes are often gifted when you go on a New Year’s visit 拜年 (bai nin / bài nián) to see friends and family. Upon giving and receiving red packets, of course one will say 新年快乐 (san nin faai lok / xīn nián kuài lè) meaning Happy New Year and another very common phrase is 恭喜发财 (kung hei fat choi / gong xǐ fā cái) meaning to ‘wish you wealth and prosperity’.

Food

With family being at the heart of Chinese New Year, family feasts are extremely important. Families often have a large reunion for a New Year’s Eve dinner. Although every region and household will have different customs, there are often some common dishes seen on every dinner table: Spring Rolls (春卷 – ceon gyun / chūn juǎn) These are eaten to celebrate the coming of the first day of spring. They are a wish for prosperity and wealth because they look like bars of gold!

Dumplings (饺子 – gaau zi / jiǎo zi)

Photo credit Nozomi Tolworthy

The word for dumplings in Chinese sound like 交子. 交 means ‘exchange’ and 子 is the midnight hours. Placed together, 交子 means the exchange between the old and the new year. By eating dumplings, you are therefore sending away the old and welcoming in the new. Dumplings are also shaped like ancient Chinese silver and gold ingots and as such, symbolise good fortune. There are steamed as well as pan-fried dumplings that are eaten during Chinese New Year.

Noodles (面 – min / miàn)

For Chinese New Year, people like to eat long noodles, also called 长寿面 (zoeng sau min / cháng shòu miàn) which means ‘longevity noodles’. The longer the noodle, the longer your life will be so you shouldn’t cut them nor bite them. Needless to say, this calls for lots of slurping!

Parades & Performances

Each holiday has its own set of activities and traditions. During Chinese New Year, there may be the releasing of lanterns for the lantern festival, firework displays and often parades that include a dragon dance or lion dance. Fireworks are set off as it is thought that the noise and lights will scare away any evil sprits. The dragon is a symbol of China, and is an important part of Chinese culture. Chinese dragons symbolise wisdom, power and wealth, and they are believed to bring good luck to people. As such, dragon dances are an important cultural activity during Chinese New Year as well as Mid-Autumn Festival.

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Similarly, lion dances can be seen at many festive events from Chinese New Year to weddings. The lion is meticulously designed, with movable eyes and mouth. Each lion is operated by 2 performers, one as the head and one as the body. Lion dances often involve crowd interaction where the lion may open its mouth asking for food and the crowd are given cabbage leave to throw to the lion.

How will we celebrate at RUSU & UoR?

This year we are hoping to make Chinese New Year a campus-wide celebration. As such, we have created pin badges with 福 (fuk / fú) meaning happiness and good fortune printed on them. These will be given out to staff and students around campus in the first week of February to be worn on lanyards, jackets and backpacks alike to show your support for the celebrations and participation in the festivities on campus.

For any enquiries regarding the Chinese New Year celebrations, please feel free to contact: Nozomi Tolworthy 雷希望 RUSU Diversity Officer 2018/19 diversityofficer@rusu.co.uk  or Ellie Highwood, Dean for Diversity and Inclusion (e.j.highwood@reading.ac.uk)

What is cultural competency?

The University of Reading is a global university, with a global engagement strategy. Increasingly, understanding and appreciating different cultures is necessary at work in the University and in our broader lives. In some HE institutions, health care and prison services, there is a recognised “thing” called “cultural competency”. The Cultural Diversity Group (open to anyone at the University interested in how race or ethnicity might affect staff or student experiences at Reading) on 6th September was an animated discussion on what “cultural competency” actually means, whether it is relevant to us as individuals, the University of Reading as an organisation or to our students as global citizens.

A quick wander around the internet suggests that cultural competency is variously defined as…

  • The ability to appreciate and interpret accurately other cultures.
  • The ability to successfully teach students who come from cultures other than their own.
  • The ability of providers and organizations to effectively deliver health care services that meet the social, cultural, and linguistic needs of patients (much of the cultural competency framework has its origin in healthcare).

Other terms are sometimes used, including cultural awareness or intercultural awareness. Employers and commercial organisations often use the term to refer to very practical matters such as how to greet people of other cultures, understanding the laws when working in other countries. Many Universities interpret cultural competency as applying only to international students coming to study here – who undoubtedly do need support in getting the maximum benefit from their time here, but this seems rather narrow!

I will now attempt to summarise our discussions.

Theme 1: Meaning, relevance and terminology

“Culturally Competent” vs “Culturally Aware”

There was quite a lot of resistance to the term “culturally competent”, at least initially, because:

  • Felt to be challenging for people to admit they weren’t competent.
  • Implies it is something that can easily be measured?

However, it is a term recognised by employers who want “employees who can demonstrate that they can adapt and work with people from other countries, ethnicities and religions

“Culturally aware” felt like a “softer” term which more people might sign up to, but actually on discussion we realised that you can be aware of something but not engage with or d  anything about it. Is this term therefore too passive?

Does “Competence” equate to skills, whilst “awareness” equates to knowledge?

 

CONCLUSION 1: We prefer the term “Intercultural” as opposed to “Cultural” because what we would like to improve is communication between, understanding of and learning across cultures. We felt that “Cultural” could be interpreted as knowing about only one culture.

CONCLUSION 2: Intercultural skills (or whatever the term that is used) is entirely consistent with the University’s espoused position as being a university with global reach and a “thriving community”. From a student point of view, Employers definition of cultural competency is a strong driver, particularly for students associated with Business and professional degree programmes.

CONCLUSION 3: We can imagine that there is a spectrum of positive engagement with intercultural issues beginning with “Awareness” at the lowest end. We thought therefore that a framework whereby individuals and the organisation moved from “Awareness” to “Competent” to “Confident” might be a more useful way of thinking. We recognised that there are other levels of engagement described as “Unaware”, “Ignorant”, “Uninterested” and “Opposed”.

CONCLUSION 4: Intercultural awareness is NOT just for international students and staff. It is something that is relevant to, and reflection on would be beneficial to ALL students and staff.

Theme 2: Current situation

Discussion here was wide-ranging. As with many Diversity and Inclusion issues, we recognised that there are already lots of good practice examples in many parts of the University, but that finding out about them and adopting them is difficult. For example, we already have employers who visit through the careers service to give presentations on Cultural Competency – these tend to be attended mostly by HBS students although they are open to everyone. IoE have had discussions with student groups about cultural diversity in order to prepare their trainee teachers for posts in Schools. Resources from RISC on cultural diversity were recommended.

We also recognised:

  • The tendency for cultural segregation amongst students and the challenges of persuading students to work in culturally mixed groups (associated with students dislike of group work in general)
  • The lack of confidence felt by some members of staff in terms of interacting with culturally diverse students and colleagues. In the latter case, people were particularly worried about “saying something wrong / offensive”.
  • The difficulty in involving home / English as a first language students in working with international students, particularly in terms of language development and support.
  • The multiple demands on staff and students.

Theme 3 Moving forward

Assuming that we can convince the rest of the University (or even if we can’t!) that there is a need (driven by competition for students, increasing numbers of students on campus for part of their degrees and changing expectations of students and employers), to move staff, students and the organisation from a state of (partial) awareness towards competency and confidence, we came up with some suggestions as to how to move forward in the short term.

  1. Complete a more systematic audit of existing initiatives and good practice across the University.
  2. Look to maximise benefits of opportunities that already exist – e.g. encouraging / incentivising involvement of home / native English speakers in language conversation sessions run in ISLI (developing skills to work with those from other ethnicities and countries etc as well as providing much needed conversation practice for non-English speakers); advertising Employers interest and talks more widely?

In the longer term, it was strongly felt that development of Intercultural Awareness and confidence should be mostly embedded within existing modules and development programmes (e.g. through Curriculum development and review and via careers and RED award?). However this approach relies on confident, competent and motivated teachers and staff – how would we get to this point? Many people thought that the best way to do this would be to bring different groups of people together more, and that ways of doing that could be the topic of discussion at a future meeting. Ideas and views should also be solicited from the wider staff body (through the Race Equality Survey or the subsequent action plan?)

It was acknowledged that there may be a place for specific staff training to be available but this might be more relevant for specific practical situations (e.g. staff heading overseas etc). Some colleagues had trialled using a team development day for this type of training, using free resources from culturewise.ltd to select exercises and make them relevant to their three main overseas groups. Georgia Riches-Jago shared with the wider group how useful they had found the exercises and the opportunity to reflect on the practical side of intercultural awareness in their own context.

What next? 

  • This blog!
  • Solicit wider views via staff portal article linking to blog, Race Equality survey and other methods during Autumn 2017.
  • Incorporation of proposed actions into draft Race Equality Charter Mark action plan, and discussion at UEB in November 2017.
  • Discussion of “bringing together” events at a future CDG meeting

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

By Ellie Highwood

Equality, diversion and inclusion are three terms used frequently and often interchangeably, but are importantly different. Diversity and inclusion can be thought of in terms of cooking. Most recipes require a many different (diverse) ingredients, but the quality of the end dish depends on all the ingredients being mixed together in the right way so that each one contributes to make something better than the sum of the parts (inclusion).

salad

Or, as coined by Verna Myers, “diversity is being invited to the party – inclusion is being asked to dance”.

In terms of our, or other organisations, diversity can be measured in terms of numbers, for example number of women professors, or black senior staff. It is relatively straightforward to set targets to improve diversity. Inclusion is more difficult to measure and manifests itself as “feeling included”, “being part of the team”, “feeling valued”. Also note that a diverse team does not necessarily behave more inclusively.

Equality is the term that has been used for the longest in this area. But what is equality? Equality of treatment? Equality of opportunity? Equality of treatment can be misleading. Yes we want everyone to be treated fairly, but this does not mean treating everyone the same. Equality of opportunity is the most popular term – this recognises that in order to give everyone the same opportunities, we might need to treat different groups differently because of past experiences (i.e. lack of access to information about university) or processes and structures that put a particular group at a disadvantage.

The potential confusion surrounding “equality” is the reason we are a “Diversity and Inclusion” team. However, by focussing on recognising and celebrating diversity, and encouraging and facilitating inclusion, we aim to provide equality of opportunity for all our staff and students.