Uber partners with EQUAL GROUND this World Human Rights Day

  • Exclusive interview with Uber Eats SL Lead Bhavna Dadlani and EQUAL GROUND Founder and Executive Director Rosanna Flamer-Caldera

In honour of today being World Human Rights Day, Uber partnered with non-profit organisation EQUAL GROUND which helps people of the LGBTQ+ community, in order to conduct counselling and training programmes as well as to offer legal advice to all their drivers of the community.

World Human Rights Day signifies the absolute rights to which all human beings are entitled, irrespective of any race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinions, national or social origin, property, birth, or any other status. Therefore, this partnership between Uber and EQUAL GROUND – both being organisations that work with and employ people from the grassroots – is a welcome addition to our society.

This year’s Human Rights Day theme is “Equality, reducing inequalities, advancing human rights”, and the principles of equality and non-discrimination are at the heart of human rights. Equality means inclusion and non-discrimination; in other words, a human rights-based approach to development is the best way to reduce inequalities, which is what this programme aims to do.

Bhavna Dadlani Jayawardhana

Brunch had a chat with Uber Eats Sri Lanka Lead Bhavna Dadlani and EQUAL GROUND Founder and Executive Director Rosanna Flamer-Caldera to learn more about this partnership and what it is to offer.

What the partnership entails

To begin, we questioned Dadlani on how the partnership with EQUAL GROUND came about. She explained that at Uber, they constantly strive to improve the quality of life of all their partners. She went on to explain that as a responsible organisation, they recognise that mental health is as important as physical health and, therefore, thought it is essential to support the LGBTQ+ partners on the Uber platform to help them excel in their field.

“We are thrilled to launch an industry-first partnership with EQUAL GROUND, which is the foremost LGBTQ+ advocacy group in the country to help support our partners,” she said.

As Human Rights Day is important, especially after Covid-19 which has deepened poverty and increased siatutions of inequality, discrimination, and other gaps in human rights protection, it is essential now more than ever that we protect people of communities whose lives may be at risk due to factors that are out of their control.

Rosanna Flamer Caldera

Both Flamer-Caldera and Dadlani emphasised that this partnership was born through the need to support the LGBTQ+ partners on the Uber platform, as they realised such partners may have to face various issues created by society but may lack the resources to face them successfully. It is indeed possible to close these social gaps and advance human rights by striving to build a world that is better, more resilient, and also sustainable.

With this partnership, Uber will act as a resource for LGBTQ+ individuals and their allies, with the intention to increase visibility, understanding, and belongingness at Uber.

Counselling programmes offered

Flamer-Caldera and Dadlani explained that the LGBTQ+ partners on the Uber platform now have a resource to turn to in case they need any support or assistance regarding their mental health needs. EQUAL GROUND has provided Uber partners with a free counselling service, which will no doubt be a valuable resource.

“The counselling services will be provided for preliminary outreach only. If deemed necessary, a person will then be referred to licensed therapists, for further consultation. EQUAL GROUND is in partnership with Shanthi Maargam for this facility,” Flamer-Caldera said.

Dadlani, commenting further on what this partnership means for their employees, added: “They will also be providing sensitisation training to our staff, which would in turn help us relate to our partners better and improve their experience with us overall.”

Although being LGBTQ+ is absolutely not a mental illness, many LGBTQ+ people experience mental health struggles. “Patterns of mental healthcare utilisation among sexual orientation minority groups” published in the Journal of Homosexuality, 65(2), 135-153 by Platt, L. F., Wolf, J. K., and Scheitle, C. P. (2018) notes that the bisexual and transgender communities have the highest rates of mental health concerns within the LGBTQ+ population, and many surveys show that the younger members of the LGBTQ+ community struggle the most with mental health concerns of all the age groups.

Most LGBTQ+ individuals are incredibly resilient and will thrive in the face of adversity, with the help of supportive families, communities, and peers. One study even found that LGBTQ+ people used mental health services at 2.5 times higher rates than their counterparts. However, they are also at particular risk for experiencing shame, fear, discrimination, and adverse and traumatic events, which is where the counselling programmes hosted by EQUAL GROUND comes in for the Uber partners in order to ensure their safety and wellbeing.

Flamer-Caldera informed us that EQUAL GROUND has a counselling hotline which is run by licensed therapists, who will be looking into the wellbeing of their partners at all times.

Importance of diversity in a workplace

Diversity and inclusion is more than policies, programmes, or headcounts. Equitable employers outpace their competitors by respecting the unique needs, perspectives, and potential of all their team members. As a result, diverse and inclusive workplaces earn deeper trust and more commitment from their employees.

Inclusion in the workplace has been an ever-present ideology for organisations. One of the biggest challenges we have today is creating diverse and inclusive environments in the workforce, and therefore, it certainly is not impossible. However, it is difficult for a number of organisations. Many organisations have figured out the diversity aspect, but not inclusion. With this partnership between Uber and EQUAL GROUND, we are finally hearing about inclusion and its extreme importance in the workplace.

We also asked Dadlani if this partnership could affect the recruitment process for Uber drivers in any way; she explained that by creating a discriminiation-free environment in which all their partners can thrive, they hope to expand the number of LGBTQ+ partners on their platform by ensuring they are accepted, respected, and given the resources they need to  perform to their fullest capacity. They are creating a global community – both within Uber and across countries – that empowers LGBTQ+ individuals to participate more actively in society and facilitates access to flexible economic opportunities for everyone.

When asked what’s next for both Uber and EQUAL GROUND, Dadlani and Flamer-Caldera responded saying that they hope to continue their partnership into the future, creating an equal, friendly, and postive environment for all partners to thrive, regardless of gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation.