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LGBT+ campaigner wins trade union Equality Award

Fife based trainee pharmacist Soh Xi Ken wins STUC Equality Award

One of Scotland’s leading LGBT+ campaigners has been recognised for his advocacy work for LGBT+ pharmacists in Scotland.

Soh Xi Ken of the Pharmacists Defence Association (PDA) received the Equality Award at the STUC Annual Congress this week in Dundee. The award praised Xi Ken’s tireless advocacy for LGBT+ workers within pharmacies in Scotland, highlighting his personal experience of homophobia in Scotland and his home country, Malaysia.

In May 2021, Xi Ken became a founding member of the PDA LGBT+ Pharmacists network committee and was elected as their first Honorary Secretary. The PDA LGBT+ network is the first of its kind in the pharmacy world and has made significant difference to the profile of LGBT+ people amongst the profession.

He and others within the LGBT+ pharmacists network spotted that there was a lack of LGBT specific guidance given to pharmacy students and that their unique and specific health needs were not being addressed as part of the pharmacy education that they received.

Xi Ken, who was presented the Equality Award from First Minister Humza Yousaf at the Congress, coordinated the #LGBTplusMPharm initiative. Liaising with the General Pharmaceutical Council (the pharmacy profession's regulator), the Pharmacy Schools Council, and individual universities, he raised awareness of the need for inclusive education, and worked to help pharmacy schools embed LGBT+ inclusion within their teaching and learning.

Commenting, Xi Ken said:

“It’s a great privilege to have received the STUC Equality Award with all praise and gratitude going to my colleagues within the Pharmacists Defence Association.

"It has been an honour to fight for LGBT+ rights within the pharmacy sector. When we all come together, trade unionists can make real changes in workplaces, industries and in communities.

"That’s precisely why I’m a proud member of the PDA. We’re seeking to root out discrimination in all its forms within the sector, leaving no stone unturned in our collective fight for fairness and equality throughout the Scotland’s pharmacies.”

Commenting, STUC General Secretary Roz Foyer said:

“Right across Scotland, in every sector of the economy, our reps and shop stewards are the face of our trade union movement in our workplaces and in our communities. Our annual Union Rep Awards celebrate these stalwarts and all those who have gone above and beyond this past year.

"This year was no exception and Xi Ken thoroughly deserves his recognition as the recipient of the Equality Award for 2023.

"He is a driven and dedicated proponent of equality and has been a key component in the campaign to ask the UK Pharmacy Schools Council (PhSC) to include, and be more inclusive of, LGBT+ health issues in the curriculum.

"Our reps are the lifeblood of our movement; an incredible force for good in helping others in need. Every single one of them deserves an award for the amazing work that they do and they have my utmost praise as they ingrain trade union values throughout their workplaces.”

Commenting, Wendy Burton, Director of Scottish Union Learning, said:

"We are delighted that Soh Xi Ken of the Pharmacists Defence Association (PDA) has received our Equality Award. His exceptional work in raising awareness of the need for inclusive education, and in helping pharmacy schools embed LGBT+ inclusion within their teaching and learning, demonstrate his passion and commitment to improving equality in an extremely challenging environment.

"Soh Xi Ken is a very deserving winner of this award, and we wish him all the best as he continues to campaign and advocate for LGBT+ pharmacists across Scotland.”

Watch Xi Ken's story in the STUC Equality Award short film here: