Are we in denial and have we fallen into the habit of justifying sub consciously that we support gender equality because we are predisposed to? And that many of our own are already visible and have made it to the top.
As Asian Australian women, many of us follow and support the gender equality movement as part of our natural disposition, because we see this as a win for all, not just a win for some. And whilst, this is such a noble and important movement to support, do we ever sit down and question the racial bias which exists within this movement?
Are we in denial and have we fallen into the habit of justifying sub consciously that we support gender equality because we are predisposed to? And that many of our own are already visible and have made it to the top. It is easy to identify with the likes of Penny Wong, Kylie Kwong, Dami Im and Jessica Mauboy, but is this enough and are our judgements clouded because these women are visible in the public circuit?
And whilst, this is such a noble and important movement to support, do we ever sit down and question the racial bias which exists within this movement?
Recently, Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, did the unexpected and appointed Senator Maris Payne as Australia’s first female Defence Minister. The Australian Labor Party (ALP), at their National Conference in August, adopted a policy, to place a target to have 50% female MPs within ten years. We are seeing more women holding senior positions in our major institutions and there has been campaigns to encourage women to pursue a trade or a non-traditional female career path. But remember these milestones may be a win for gender equality but a loss for cultural diversity, because it does not take into account the countless number of Asian Australian women and more broadly women of colour who are not even an afterthought.
However, the moral of this story is not all about doom and gloom because we do continue to see glimmers of positivity that change is just beyond the horizon. There are a few groups which are established to empower Asian Australian women and to ensure our interests are represented. The following profiles are of these women and groups who act rather than just talk, and are the unsung heroes fighting for better cultural diversity within the fight for better gender equality.
DAWN (Diverse Australasian Women’s Network) founded by politician and media personality Dai Le who is not only a popular local councillor but is also a strong community advocate, and has recently won her battle with breast cancer. DAWN engages relevant stakeholders to hold discussion forums for women of colour to understand gender equality in context and to provide proactive skills for leadership and career development.
It is astonishing as to why the gender equality movement has not shifted itself to understand cultural diversity.
Another such group which is a proud branch within the Asian Australian scene is the Asian Australian Alliance Women’s Forum (AAAWF), which looks at creating nationwide campaigns and projects to further the empowerment and advancement of Asian Australian Women.Led by the illustrious Anjana Regmi, a proud feminist and a strong advocate for women’s rights, her role as National Convener, is to administer and create projects which help promote change for Asian Australian women. By day, she is a researcher and a PhD student at the University of Technology, Sydney, specialising in volunteering motivation, recruitment and retention strategies in a non-western context. Currently as part of her role in AAAWF, she is coordinating a national project with various stakeholders in creating a reference point on eliminating discrimination and violence against women. She is also the current Vice President for Immigrant Women’s Speak Out, which is a peak advocacy body representing the needs and interests of refugee women in Australia.
Molina Asthana, hails from trendy Melbourne and by day works as a Principal Solicitor with the Victorian Government’s Solicitor’s Office. Serving in senior positions on various legal boards and institutes, Molina’s passion focuses on the diverse issue facing the South Asian community of domestic violence and gender diversity. Molina is AAAWF’s Victorian convener and will push for social change in the areas of domestic violence and leadership for Asian Australian women.
Dr Xiang-Yu (Janet) Hou, AAAWF’s Queensland Convener living in the sunshine state, by day is an Associate Professor in the area of public health and social work at the Queensland University of Technology. She also holds Director level positions for various institutes and departments within the university as well as a board member for a few organisations. Janet is passionate about public health and well-being of Asian Australian women, and utilises her skills and networks to ensure their interests are represented in the gender equality debate.
The fight for better gender equality is in danger of losing support, because the voices of Asian Australian women and more broadly women of colour are not heard, loud and clear.
Cecile Sy is a young Communications Analyst hailing from the suburbs of Western Sydney. Her passion derives from her past experiences working as a TV production assistant for a soap opera in the Philippines. Having lived in Australia for the past ten years, Cecile has worked on SBS Filipino radio in broadcasting and is passionate about writing and public relations. Cecile takes pride in advocating for better mental health services for Asian Australian women and children and has cultivated skills in motivational speaking and assertiveness from her various leadership positions from Toastmasters International. As an AAA convener, Cecile will look at how a mental health awareness project can be rolled out to assist the work of AAAWF.
It is astonishing as to why the gender equality movement has not shifted itself to understand cultural diversity. Where there have been a few who have benefited from the spoils of the movement, it is still only a very tiny portion and far removed from representing the actual population of Asian Australians. Political parties, social activists, and mainstream institutions, need to recognise that this is a major issue and take steps to consult with the Asian Australian community to remedy this deficit. The fight for better gender equality is in danger of losing support, because the voices of Asian Australian women and more broadly women of colour are not heard, loud and clear.