Equality, inclusion and rights terminology guidelines

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Equality, inclusion and human rights
Image: WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

Read our guide to using language in a way that respects everyone.

Language reflects and shapes our understanding of reality, and can influence the thoughts and actions of those around us. WaterAid’s focus on equality, inclusion and rights means we need to consider carefully the language we use to talk about discrimination, marginalisation and exclusion, and how we talk to and about people who are disadvantaged or marginalised in any way.

This terminology guide is intended to help bring our attention to the way we talk about people or groups that might be at risk of being marginalised or facing discrimination. It does not dictate which terms should or should not be used. Rather, it provides guiding principles, gathered from a range of sources, intended to help raise awareness about the language we use and issues surrounding disability, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, race, health status, worker groups and informal settlements.

Although we have intended to reflect different contexts and geographies, it is very important that, when using the guide, you find out what the most appropriate terminology is where you are. Please use this guide as a starting point and take the time to work with rights identity based groups in your context to understand what empowering language they prefer to use and why.

Top image: Har Sah, (middle) with her daughter in law Sushila Sah, (left) and daughter Amitra Sah, Itahari, Sunsari, Nepal.