Dumfries and Galloway woman wins prestigious National Diversity Award

Grace Cardozo, Service Manager of Dumfries and Galloway LGBT Centre (part of national youth charity LGBT Youth Scotland) beat thousands of UK candidates to win a coveted National Diversity Award at a star studded awards ceremony in Leeds, which was hosted by gay TV presenter Brian Dowling and disabled CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell and which featured celebrities including former England footballer Sol Campbell, the stars of Channel 4’s My Transsexual Summer and Paralympian wheelchair tennis player Peter Norfolk OBE.

Over four and a half thousand people were nominated for the awards, which was whittled down to just 56 finalists under 18 award categories.  Nominations came from all over the UK, however Grace was the only Scot to be finalised and one of the first ever to win an award.    The LGBT rights activist, who has worked to promote the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people and adults for over 16 years, received an unprecedented number votes to win the category of LGBT Role Model.  In winning the award, she joined a worthy band of winners who all strive towards promoting equality and diversity in their daily lives, including the first black police officer in Lewisham, a company who sells greetings cards featuring black and minority ethnic families, and the founder of a charity for people with facial disfigurements.  

Over her career working with LGBT Youth Scotland, first in Edinburgh, and then in Dumfries and Galloway, Grace has worked tirelessly to provide opportunities and services to LGBT people, and with her open and friendly approach, she has helped literally 100s of LGBT people live confident and fulfilled lives.  Many of the young people she helped in Edinburgh over a decade ago wrote moving testimonies to the award judges about the ways in which Grace helped them move through difficult times to become happy and successful adults. 

“She was a role model for me and many other young people when I was growing up. She led our youth group and listened to our problems and tried to give us answers.   She gave us direction and positivity when there was nothing else. I for one will never forget that.”

Grace has also been responsible for setting up some key services and initiatives including the acclaimed LGBT Charter Mark Scheme which is a tool to help organisations better understand and cater for the needs of this often marginalised group.  The Charter, which has just been re-launched in a new bronze, silver and gold format, now has almost 200 sign–ups from different agencies across Scotland, including over 40 in Dumfries and Galloway with whom she works regularly, proving training and expert advice to enable them to better meet their ethical and legislative obligations with regards to LGBT people.  Local organisations were just as keen to see Grace win the award, with Sue Livermore from a local partner agency saying:

“Grace should win this award because there is no-one I would rather have on my side.  She’s charismatic, charming and she wins over the most difficult people in the most difficult situations, simply through force of character.  The only person she doesn’t stand up for and fight for every day is herself.”

In her speech when accepting the award, Grace remained humble saying:

“Being here tonight makes me realise how lucky I am to have the support of my wife and family, my friends and colleagues, and makes me remember that there are many people who don’t have that kind of support and who would not therefore be confident enough to stand up here and accept an award like this.  It also makes me think of LGBT people in Russia and other parts of the world who face such persecution that they would literally be risking their lives to stand up as an openly gay person, so really, I am accepting this award for them, and as reminder that we need to keep on fighting until everyone can live free from prejudice and discrimination.”

To find out more about the work of LGBT Youth Scotland visit www.lgbtyouth.org.uk and to find out about Grace and her team’s work in Dumfries and Galloway visit www.lgbtcentredg.co.uk