Before talking about our role in promoting social inclusion, let’s demystify a very common mistake, the association of the term integration and inclusion. Although they seem and are often used as synonyms, they have very different meanings and applications.
From the dictionary we learn that social integration is the process of introducing individuals or groups into larger social contexts, with more general standards and norms. We can then conclude that different people, regardless of their needs and desires, are inserted in an already existing context, and not requiring any effort to adapt to society.
People with disabilities, for example, are responsible for preparing themselves to be integrated into regular schools, companies and the whole society. In this case, there is an effort on their part to adapt.
According to the United Nations, “Social inclusion is the process by which efforts are made to ensure equality of opportunity – that everyone, regardless of their origin, can reach their full potential in life.” This means that each person must share the feeling of belonging where they live, be accepted in different roles in the community, be involved in activities based on their personal preferences and choices, experience healthy social relationships and have their rights effectively guaranteed, corresponding to what they really need. In this case, the efforts are mutual, both of the people who will be included and of the whole society.
Did you notice the difference? We have evolved a lot recently, but unfortunately many people still face situations of social exclusion because they are not recognized or seen as an integral part of the community, whether for economic, racial or even because of a disability they have. We understand that social inclusion is the opposite of that and that it is everyone’s responsibility.
It is worth remembering that there are different laws in force to promote social inclusion, but it’s up to us, while society, to make sure it’s being comply with.This is also our role.