Chetwood Legal Counsel, Emma Udi, recognised in 2022 Northern Power Women 'Person with Purpose' shortlist

13th December 2021

Chetwood Legal Counsel, Emma Udi, has been nominated for the 2022 Northern Power Women 'Person with Purpose' for her work with the charity Dive In Education.

Emma and her partner Seno founded Dive In Education in 2020 with a mission to provide children with books that have central characters from minority backgrounds to help increase representation and to challenge biases and prejudices.

We asked Emma to share a bit more about the charity’s purpose and her reasons for setting it up.

Tell us about Dive In Education

When my daughter was 2.5 years old, she started questioning her skin colour. A lack of representation in the media she has been exposed to, the toys she was playing with and

also being taught to associate negative emotions and feelings with dark colours played a significant role in her associating her skin colour with negativity.

This came as a shock to us as parents, and we started to learn some painful truths about how racial bias and prejudice is learnt almost from birth. So, we decided to do something about it and set up Dive In Education.

Our aim is to increase representation in UK classrooms by filling them with books that have main characters of colour, which have been written and/or illustrated by people of colour. The effect of this is two-fold; It increases representation and provides children of colour with positive role models that are relatable whilst normalising racial differences to everyone in the room, which will help to prevent stereotypes, biases and prejudices from developing at an early age.

It has been a difficult journey so far - mostly because people don’t understand racism and how unconscious bias is formed. There needs to be greater education on the more subtle forms of racism such as micro-aggressions, colour blindness and institutional racism. These forms of racism have an overwhelming impact on people.

What is the goal of Dive In Education?

Our current goal is to expand our reach, and we can only do this through the generosity of people donating to us.

By the end of Q1 2022, we will have supplied approx. 900 books to six schools (along with 100+ learning resources per school). This means that around 1134 children will be engaged in meaningful discussions about racism and antiracism as a result of our services.

How does your role at both Dive In Education and Chetwood fit together?

Chetwood really understands the importance of diversity and inclusivity so it’s been lovely to have their support. Some of my colleagues have even taken the time to help me develop my skills to better enable me to run the charity.

As you can imagine, my day job can be quite intense. But the fact that the bank’s mission is to create better products and solutions to underserved customers is something close to my heart, and fits in with what myself and the team at Dive In Education are working on every day.

When it comes to winding down after a busy day, I love to read a book (or three!) with my children. This works perfectly with my role within the charity because there’s always new books to review and consider for supplying to schools and to showcase through our social media pages.

Could you tell us a bit more about why diversity in children’s books is so important?

It’s important for many reasons, but mostly so that children from underrepresented groups can see themselves reflected in the books they read. This is critical because recreational reading is known to improve the mental well-being of children and leads to better attainment at school.

Children disengage if they don't see characters that they can relate to. Over time this can have a life-limiting impact. We know that only 8% of children’s books published in the UK in 2020 had main characters from an ethnic minority. Yet 33.9% of primary-school-age children are from minority ethnic backgrounds. The gap is slowly closing, but the pace needs to increase.

No matter your age, books provide an escape for all of us - a platform through which you can dream your wildest dreams and imagine the extraordinary.

We're proud to see Emma's hard work being recognised and we can’t wait to see the positive change the charity will bring!

Keep an eye out for the Northern Power Women Awards as they announce the winners on Monday 21 March 2022!

To read more about Dive In Education and how to support them, visit https://www.diveineducation.org/ and follow their progress at @DiveInEducation on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.