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Human Rights Conference at SUNY Newburgh Emphasizes Culture of Inclusion

Conference Hosts: Orange County Executive Director of Human Rights Inaudy Gil-Esposito (right) and Deputy Director Robin White (left) An All-Day Event held at Kaplan Hall of SUNY Newburgh drew an impressive group of speakers and audience that participated in discussions exploring actions that can be taken to improve inclusivity in all groups of our society. A natural phenomenon of human existence, issues of "belonging" and being treated fairly permeate all social groups. Host InaudyHil-Esposito said that it was so exciting to see "so many people coming together from diverse backgrounds in one place. talking about how important it is to embrace diversity and promote inclusion in the workplace. There were over 150 professionals from Orange County that included lawyers, elected officials , social workers and educators emphasizing how important it is for each of us to address our own biases. We can be good humans, we can be good people, and how it is all intersectional and collides and comes together". This conference brought individuals who represent the entire network of service providers who oversee human rights, accessibility and inclusivity issues. Participants included hosts, Inaudy Hil Esposito, Director of Orange County's Human Rights Committee,and Deputy Director Robin White Panel members included: Josayne Anderson-Tejera, Dutchess County’s Equal Employment Opportunity and Inclusion Officer, Michele McKeon, Chief Operating Officer of RECAP, and Shirley Felder, Chief Executive Officer of Ordinary Greatness. Mim Senft, the co-founder of Motivity Care and co-founder and CEO of Global Women 4 Wellbeing (GW4W), and Dr. Dana Crawford, Ph.D., who served as the keynote speakers. Robin White described how this conference was in planning 2 years ago, before COVID hit. "It turned into a phenomenal day", she said, adding "I know this is going to be the first of many because this conversation needs to continue. Here in Orange County we can come together, hear each other and we can change". She said she was encouraged that no matter what the conversation was during the day, it was positive. The topic of sexism highlighted how it remains rampant. While there are more women in leadership positions today, both in business and government, studies show that in general women still receive significantly less salary with the same qualifications for the same job. Equal opportunity officials like Josayne Anderson-Tejera encounter and report these biases on a daily basis. Traditions of the highest and highest paid positions belonging to men are entrenched, but these devoted activists are chipping away at them. Along with issues of race, ethnicity, cultural background, gender identification accessibility and encouragement to hirr people with 'disabilities', an important topic in these discussions was how we treat our growing aging population and the need to develop protocols that prevent ageism. Whether applying for a job, trying to start a business, looking for housing, or seeking medical care, it is sadly the case that older seniors are often seen as second class. Unlike most other groups who are discriminated against, many in the elderly population do not have the skills to protest and may be less aware of benefits they are not being afforded that others in society are (such as large sums of stimulus money, childl care, tuition help, PPP loans, and the list goes on. Employers may pay them less because they assume these individuals already have homes and savings and are "just looking for something to stay busy". They may be less inclined to hire these older seniors because they think that investing in their professional development may not bring return for as many years as a younger adult employee. Finally, Esposito addressed one of today's most critical generational issues: how to better assist our ageing Senior population in ways that allow them to continue living in their homes and how to foster better appreciation by the larger community for the unique contributions they offer because of their age. For many seniors there are crushing issues of lack of transportation, infrequent quality social interaction, poor nutrition, inadequate funds for paying bills and taxes, the need to be encouraged to keep the mind alert by continuing a life of learning, an active lifestyle, and financial support, all of which promote the kind of quality of life that contributes to health and longevity. Eslposito said networking is needed to assure that all, and not just a few of these needs are met. Esposito added that even more pressing is the need for better oversight of nursing care when these individuals can no longer be supported to live at home. The failures of nursing and assisted living facilities during the years of pandemic, Esposito said, demand our compassion and action.

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