Zero Discrimination Day


For the past ten years, March 1st has become the time of year to observe Zero Discrimination Day. As I am quite vehemently opposed to discrimination, being some of the worst anti-humanist behavior of all time, I needed to write something about recognizing this day.

Observed annually on March 1st since 2014, Zero Discrimination Day originated as a campaign launched by UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. This global event stems from that program’s commitment to advocate for a world where everyone is treated with dignity and respect.Regardless of our age, gender, sexuality, nationality, ethnicity, skin color, height, weight, profession, education, and beliefs, we’re all human beings who deserve fair and equal treatment.

It’s not hard to see how the inception of Zero Discrimination Day is intertwined with the fight against HIV/AIDS. This battle has highlighted stark inequalities and discrimination in healthcare access, social acceptance, and legal protections for people living with HIV. Whether rooted in stigma associated with the disease or in pre-existing societal prejudices, discrimination has been a significant barrier to HIV prevention, treatment, and care. 

So, recognizing the urgent need to address these issues, UNAIDS spearheaded the creation of Zero Discrimination Day. The hope was to foster global solidarity, promote equality, and inspire changes in laws and societal attitudes that perpetuate discrimination in all its forms. Obviously, such discrimination goes far beyond HIV/AIDS, but it’s perhaps one of the most apparent examples.

The symbol chosen for Zero Discrimination Day is the butterfly, universally recognized as an emblem of transformation, diversity, and rebirth. This beautiful creature serves as a powerful reminder of the potential for change and the beauty of diversity in the human family. 

I’m glad this day exists to kick off the month of the year that promises the coming of spring — at least in the northern hemisphere. It’s a great way to realize a broader recognition of the critical link between combating discrimination and achieving broader health and social objectives. By challenging the injustices of discrimination, Zero Discrimination Day contributes to the creation of a more inclusive, equitable world where everyone can live fully with dignity and equal opportunity.

While I’m glad that this day is marked by various events and campaigns worldwide for the past decade, one day a year isn’t enough to truly combat discrimination in any form. We need more educational programs, community events, and social media campaigns year round aimed at raising awareness and prompting action to end discrimination. I greatly appreciate the United Nations’ mission to remind people of the ceaseless struggle against the myriad forms of discrimination that fracture our society. But the real work still falls to us, calling out these injustices and not simply letting them happen right in front of us.

Today I feel compelled to reflect broadly on our trying times, a torn canvas painted with strokes of disillusionment and hope, despair and aspiration. Many of us, myself included, are overwhelmed by the complexities of the modern world, this labyrinth of contradictions where technological marvels coexist with deep-seated inequalities. The potential for meaningful human connection is starkly juxtaposed against the stark reality of societal divides. 

The pervasive sense of hopelessness that often shadows my thoughts isn’t unique to me. Neither is its counterpart of a stubborn undercurrent of hope and longing for better days ahead. This flickering flame refuses to be extinguished by the gusts of cynicism and fatigue with global affairs. So, any movement that offers any sort of pro-humanist activity is a boon to my spirits, and those who have faced endless discrimination just like me.

As one dedicated to creative pursuits, I struggle to light a path forward in these dark times. How does one find originality in a world saturated with ideas and also fraught with challenges for mere survival? The tension between retreating into the sanctuaries of fiction and the pressing need to address real-world issues is a delicate balance for me. 

Lately I’ve been giving into nostalgia for the past, perhaps idealized in memory, to serve as a refuge from the onslaught of contemporary society’s failings. This yearning for simpler times must be carefully managed, however. Making any retreat from the responsibility to engage with the present, to contribute to the shaping of our future, must not be allowed to keep me from pursuing more noble goals.

Certainly, there’s comfort to be found in the creation of worlds untouched by the pain and injustices that mar our reality. Yet, as a writer, I feel a sense of duty to shine a light on these shadows. My words must be utilized as a toolkit for change. But getting the right words into print has become a quest filled with self-doubt and the fear of insignificance.

Critiquing the world’s failings, especially when it concedes to the pervasiveness of discrimination, is a task fraught with peril. It’s always much  easier to highlight what’s broken than to propose solutions. The ills of discrimination, inequality, and injustice are deeply entrenched, their roots burrowing into the very foundations of our society. While the solution seems simple — just treat everyone with fairness and respect — doing so in many cases can cost us relationships and even our livelihood.

So, it helps that those of us humanists — call us Social Justice Warriors if you wish — can have Zero Discrimination Day as a platform to amplify our cause: to advocate for a world where diversity is celebrated, where equality isn’t just an ideal, but a reality. The journey towards inspiring such dramatic social change through art is an uphill battle. I constantly doubt whether one voice can make a difference in the vast expanse of indifference. But I know that many, properly in tune and amplified, can move the tides of popular opinion in the right direction. Sadly, the seas are rougher than ever, and many good people are drowning in the backwash.

Yet, despite the loneliness and danger this path I choose to walk promises, I’m still driven by the belief that art has the power to move hearts and challenge perceptions. My creative endeavors are my rebellion against cynicism, especially my own. I must use my voice to echo the cries for justice and equality, for a world free from discrimination. 

Every day must be Zero Discrimination Day from now on, constantly reminding ourselves of the responsibility that accompanies the privilege of creativity. We must find our call to action, challenge one another to contribute something meaningful. Each of us must become a part of the solution in a world that often seems content with the status quo. Towing the company line makes you part of the problem, no matter how hard a truth that is to swallow.

As I wrap up this essay that has gone on much longer than intended, I’d like to end with the reminder that hope, however fragile, still flickers stubbornly within me. In the face of overwhelming disillusionment, there’s still room for stories that challenge our hearts and minds to action. Our relentless pursuit of creativity must be intertwined with the honest truth of our shared humanity. Only in embodying the values of kindness and equality can there ever lie the possibility of lighting a clear path forward, of kindling a spark that can ignite the fires of real change.

~ Amelia Desertsong, March 1st, 2024

Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy.
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