The International Planned Parenthood Federation helps more than 46,000 clinics and facilities by distributing sexual health products and services
By: Pramod Thomas
A leaked report has uncovered a culture of systemic racism at the world’s leading sexual healthcare provider, according to a report in The Independent.
The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) underwent an external probe that found ‘colonial legacies’ are rife and an ethnic pay gap has been branded ‘apartheid’ wages by staff.
Staff are also concerned that the hiring of white managers is prioritised and a “toxic” culture is pervasive within the secretariat, the report said.
The IPFF Anti-Racism Review was launched in the wake of widespread Black Lives Matter protests and was concluded in July 2021.
Established in 1952, the IPPF is partly funded by the UK government. In addition to its central office, it operates six regional offices around the world with a presence in 145 countries.
The organisation helps more than 46,000 clinics and facilities by distributing sexual health products and services. It primarily focuses on improving sexual health services, also giving contraceptives to more than 14,000 providers, particularly in rural areas.
In response, the IPPF said that it is “deeply sorry to our colleagues who have experienced racism and discrimination in the workplace”.
Four in ten staff members within the organisation’s central office in London were reported to have experienced or witnessed racism in the past 24 months.
Such behaviour included being dismissed, treated as less competent, subjected to harmful microaggressions and being bullied and shouted at by white managers.
More than one in two female staff members of colour said they either witnessed or experienced interpersonal racism at the IPPF within the same time period, The Independent report added.
According to the report, white people hold five times as many managerial positions (54 per cent) at the IPPF than black people (9 per cent).
Of the 286 staff members within the IPFF secretariat, some 186 responded to the survey – mostly of black, Asian and Middle Eastern heritage. Most of the workforce (72 per cent) believe that racism is a problem within the whole organisation.
The secretariat, comprising the central office and the six regional bases around the world, is responsible for strategy and distributing core funds to partner organisations in mostly black and brown-majority countries.
The current board of trustees of IPPF is made up of 15 people from 11 different regions, including West Africa, the Caribbean and South Asia.
Dr Alvaro Bermejo, director-general of the IPPF, called the report as a “turning point” for the organisation.
“IPPF anticipated that the report would uncover some hard truths about people’s experience of racism within the workplace, and we have acknowledged and are humbled by the contributions from staff,” Dr Bermejo told The Independent.
“We know talking about lived experiences of racism and discrimination takes an emotional and mental toll, and we are deeply sorry to our colleagues who have experienced racism and discrimination in the workplace.”
Recommendations from the review include the establishment of an action plan to tackle racism, and the implementation of policies to protect black staff from racism and foster meaningful opportunities to discuss discrimination.
“In line with some of the recommendations, we have continued to engage as a management team and with a staff working group representing all regions, and a board of trustees subcommittee, thereby creating complete oversight of the implementation of the recommendations,” Dr Bermejo was quoted as saying by the newspaper.