Hazel Remeika

My name’s Hazel and I’m Co Chair of the Respect network, as well as the Co-op Partnership Manager working with our Co-op Academies. As part of National Inclusion Week I wanted to share why this week is important to me.  

I’ve been involved with the Respect network since last July, but have been passionate about equality and diversity since university. Moving away from home gave me the space to start to be myself and explore who I truly was.  

School was a difficult place

I decided not to come out at school. I was too scared because I’d seen others braver than me be ‘out and proud’ and get physically and verbally bullied both in school and on the way home.  

I spent my school years feeling like I needed to hide my true self, and I know that both my studies and self-esteem were hugely affected as a result.

It was a difficult time for schools, because of Section 28, which prohibited the promotion of homosexuality in schools. This meant that schools felt they couldn’t challenge homophobic bullying. It also meant that thousands of children and young people grew up in environments which failed to even acknowledge their existence.  

Thankfully Section 28 was repealed in September 2003, and schools are now able to proactively tackle homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. They create safe, inclusive spaces where all students and pupils can learn and be themselves. And this is what inclusion means to me.  

Our Co-op Academies are leading the way on this

This is why I’m really proud of the work taking place in our Co-op Academies. They’re creating safe, inclusive spaces for students to express themselves and recognising that young people need a safe space to explore their own identity.  

Those who attended our AGM will have seen members of the LGBT+ group from Co-op Academy Failsworth, who shared how they’re supporting students to be themselves, always.  

All of our Co-op Academies in Greater Manchester are working with the Proud Trust to provide training and information for teachers. They’re also supporting students to set up LGBT+ groups for students who identify as LGBT+ and their allies.  

Through the relationship with Co-op, Co-op Academies are also able to link in with Respect and the partnerships we’ve developed. Partners like Iris Prize, an international LGBT Film Festival, providing education and outreach support for film-making.

Hazel Remeika at the Iris film festival

Why we still need to do more

I recently saw an exchange on Twitter responding to incredibly sad news that a 9 year old boy had taken his own life as a result of homophobic bullying.  

Someone asked: “How can a 9 year old child know they are gay?” Another responded: “Should the question not be: Why his fellow 9 year olds knew to bully him for being gay?”

So while real progress has been made since my time at school, this demonstrates why we need to continue to talk about inclusion. Both in the role we all play in enabling people to be themselves, always, and how we can all recognise and celebrate our differences.

This will make Co-op a better place to work for everyone.

Hazel Remeika
Co-op Partnership Manager

Join the conversation! 6 Comments

  1. I love this article Hazel – thank you. When I speak to some of the students from our academies that come on work experience I am always so inspired. They give me hope that maybe some of the challenges that people have faced around inclusivity in the past aren’t as strong – but you are right they are definitely still there! Anything we can do to help young people break these down and be their true best selves from day 1 is such a positive thing!

    Reply
  2. Open, honest and thought-provoking article. Thanks Hazel

    Reply
  3. I am lucky to have worked with Hazel, both at Co-op and, now, at one of the AMAZING Co-op Academies. But I am saddened to hear about her school experiences. This makes me even more determined to help ensure that our young people know that our academy is a safe place for EVERYONE #proudtobeanLGBTally

    Reply
  4. Wonderful article Hazel and so brilliant to see the fantastic work we’re doing to make our Academies an inclusive and nurturing environment. Well done!

    Reply
  5. Just need the distribution centres to understand inclusion and implement it. Displaying posters with buzz words doesn’t mean the work is done. It’s just a tick box exercise.

    Reply
    • Reading this makes me feel really sad… 😦 And you are absolutely right, root causes need to be tackled. It’s very tough to make that happen quickly though, especially when a culture is almost hardwired into a workplace.

      I wonder if you have a D&I Pioneer in your warehouse? Or you could contact me (in complete confidence), as I’m a D&I Pioneer, and talk to me about it, if you wanted to?

      Reply

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Academies, Be yourself always

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