Leading sexual health organisation forced to pay Black and white staff equally following damning probe

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

The world’s largest sexual health organisation has promised to start paying its Black staff as much as their white employees.

An external report - revealed earlier this year by The Independent - found that International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) presides over an ethnic pay gap which has been branded “apartheid” wages by staff.

It also found staff claimed that Black employees were treated as less competent and bullied by white counterparts, while the hiring of white managers was prioritised.

An anti-racist declaration of intent published by IPPF on Friday read: “Just over two years ago, the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) joined the world in condemning the brutal murder of George Floyd by police officers in the US, which sparked global protests and a subsequent global conversation on race and racism.

“The public outcry from IPPF was loud and sincere. However, it soon became clear that IPPF itself is not free from discrimination, biased views and racism.

“Staff began to rightfully question the perpetuation of racist and colonial tropes in our work, not only within the secretariat but across the Federation. An anti-racism report commissioned and delivered to us in 2021 also showed the cracks in our structures, with inequalities, power imbalances and racism spotlighted.”

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.

Describing the process of becoming an anti-racist organisation as a “constant learning curve” in its statement, the IPFF says it strongly opposes racism in all its forms and “resolutely goes for a cultural change that will shift the existing imbalances in power and process”.

The damning report that revealed pervasive racism at the IPFF was based upon various survey questions asked of its 286 employees, most of whom were of Black, Asian and Middle Eastern heritage.

White people within the organsation held five times as many managerial positions (54 per cent) than Black people (9 per cent), according to the report.

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. The review found that instances of racism have been experienced the most in this office.

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 secretariat, comprising the central office and the regional bases, is responsible for strategy and distributing core funds to partner organisations in mostly Black and brown-majority countries.

The IPFF suppressed the findings of the Anti-Racism Review, which concluded in June 2021, for over a year and did not publish the report in full via its website. The matter was only publicly addressed after The Independent’s exposé in June.

Recommendations from the review have also been accepted by the organisation which has pledged to make hiring processes fair, rewrite outdated policies, monitor its leadership structure and “reckon with its colonial past”, among other measures.