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Published: 2024-01-30 Updated: 2024-01-31, 13:15

Together we stand stronger

NEWS - I was completely surprised to know about the award, and the way it was informed was even more overwhelming. The award is an honor and immense appreciation of my efforts, says Raman Preet, who has received the 2023 Equal Opportunities Award at the Faculty of Medicine.

Text: Lena Åminne

Raman has always been interested in the issues related to equal opportunities. When she had newly moved to Umeå (2005-6), she felt the differences and started to ask questions to explore the differences in trying to find similarities in the cultural context and its way of organizing the society.

When Raman took on the role of the equal opportunity representative 5 years ago, she familiarized herself with the university's and faculty's organization and vision to work with Equal Opportunities. Together with the department's head Anna-Karin Hurtig, she discussed how to actively keep an equality, diversity and inclusion (EID) approach for this work at the newly formed Department of Epidemiology and Global Health.

- I started raising questions about how we view equality, diversity and inclusion at our institution. Not on a personal level, but how we work together and support our students and staff accepting the ‘unequalness’ of many conditions we all come from and belong to, and that we try our best to treat equally.

Look for sunshine

Diversity and variations characterize her institution, where many colleagues come from widely different parts of the world.

- If we accept and learn about different cultures and different ways of thinking and doing we show empathy, which helps us to understand each other better and makes us stand stronger together. It is not just about inclusion, we try to integrate.

Raman experienced during her early years in Umeå that it was not easy to get to know Umeå and Sweden - the culture, perspectives and living conditions, as well as the snow, darkness, and long, cold winter.

- It is important not to feel excluded, rather have an open mind and a desire to learn, to find your way and look for sunshine. I embraced the challenge and it has been rewarding.

Likewise, she embraced the equal opportunity mission. With an open mind and a sense of purpose, Raman has strived to create a sense of cohesion and community in the workplace, where diversity is its strength. This applies not only to ethnicity and religion/other beliefs, but to the same extent to other grounds of discrimination – sex, age, transgender identity, disability and sexual orientation.

To acknowledge the difficult times we had during the pandemic, and to spread community feeling during the pandemic, Raman asked all her EpiGH colleagues to share 2 photographs each, of a meaningful moment from that time and a quote about it.

- For the Dec 2020 APT, I made a slideshow showcasing all photos shared, which were arranged according to the month of birth of each colleague. We could laugh and smile at patterns and we could be interested in similar things. This created a sense of belongingness despite not meeting for the time we were working from home.

From India to Sweden

Raman Preet was born and raised in northern India, in Punjab (Ludhiana) in a family of five daughters, who are all well educated. Her sisters live in India and Canada. Raman grew up studying in an English medium school following the British style of school system.

- I was a girl who asked questions and raised her voice for some of the unfair differences between boys and girls already at school. Among other things, I was the ‘head’ of the school’s students council in grades 9 and 10, as such had a very active part as a role model for other students.

After primary school, she trained as a dentist. Raman worked in India for a few years and then moved to London where she studied for a master's in "dental public health". She came to Umeå a few years later, when her husband had got a job as a lecturer at the Umeå Institute of Design. Raman decided to add another master's degree, in public health, to her CV.

- In 2010 I became mother of a daughter. Appreciating and belonging to Swedish culture became meaningful while bringing up a child here.

At Umeå University, since 2009, Raman Preet has been working as a research coordinator. From 2012-15 also as the project manager and coordinator of the EU funded FP7 projects DengueTools and INDEPTH. In 2016 she took the role of Co-coordinator of EU funded Horizon 2020 grant, ZikaPLAN, recognised as an excellent example of international cooperation by EU DGRTD. Since 2022, she has been  supporting Horizon Europe projects IDAlert, CATALYSE and EU Climate-Health Cluster alongside contintuing with teaching and performing other responsiblities.

Motivation from review committee

Raman has made broad, structured and sustainable efforts towards both staff and students in the area of equal opportunities over a longer period of time in her role as an equal opportunities representant. She makes sure that her work touches on all aspects when it comes to preventing actions against discrimination, among other things within areas based on sex and sexual orientation, ethnicity and religion. She has created routines that now are part of her department’s everyday work, and contributes that the issues of equal opportunities are kept high on the agenda during staff meetings. She also introduces all new master students and doctoral students to the regulations within the area.