Equity as My Lens

How do you view your world? What does equity look like to you and your creative work?

Written by Lishai Peel. Spoken Word Artist & Online Learning Coordinator, Neighbourhood Arts Network

Using equity as a lens means paying close attention to the ways in which people are made visible, or invisible and the ways in which people are invited into the conversation or inadvertently excluded. It means ensuring that everyone has access to services, supports and opportunities and that they can achieve economic, political and social equality.

It took me a while to find a lens that fit properly. The lens by which I view and understand the world around me.  The lens that I use to navigate people, spaces and information and how I arrange this information in a way that makes sense to me.

I started with a feminist lens, and then, like any good social activist in first year-university, broadened (or some would say, narrowed) my lens to that of an eco-feminist persuasion. Then came Marxism and critical race theory, followed by a short-lived dose of existentialism and Nihilism. And this was only during my university years. Fast forward many years, many awkward growing pains in my understanding of who I am in relation to those around me, I finally find a lens that fits – equity. *

Equity vs. Equality

If we only wear Equality as our only lens, we will then treat everyone in exactly the same way without recognizing that sameness does not always equal fairness. It doesn’t take into account existing and historical contexts that privilege certain groups and oppress others. Think, the women’s rights movement and how socio-political differences between white women and women of colour were completely and actively ignored in the beginnings of this movement, resulting in political and social exclusion and continued discrimination. Equality in this sense was only extended to a particular type of woman. For the feminist movement to be inclusive, the two needed to be integrated.

Equity as a concept requires removing systemic barriers and acknowledging differences. It involves honouring and accommodating an individual’s or groups’ needs. “Different Treatment, rather than treating everyone the same, is necessary to obtain equal results” (City of Toronto, 2006).  Looking at our society around us through an equity lens, would mean to acknowledge the ways in which some groups are silenced and some groups are privileged based on long and complex histories of oppression.

After years of awkwardly trying to filter my world through different concepts and theories, I finally feel that I’ve found a lens that fits. It has allowed me to continuously situated and resituate myself in relation to those around me. It has allowed me to recognize and celebrate differences and work towards a deeper level of inclusivity in all the projects and programs I’ve been involved in. It allows me to continue to evolve and grow in this practice of day to day equity. 

Written by Lishai Peel.


Edited by Ella Cooper. Neighbourhood Arts Network

Photography by Fonna Seidu.