Reframing research

Evidence for Equity - this image features eight smiling women, standing together in a row with their hands on their hips at the Evidence for Equity conference.

Some of the fabulous MCWH and True Relationships staff members who organised the Evidence for Equity conference

 

The answers we seek are often limited by the questions we ask. No, we’re not talking about spiritual enlightenment. We are talking about the challenges of research when issues of race, gender and culture are involved.
For example, research on immigrant and refugee women’s sexual and reproductive health needs is frequently framed either in terms of vulnerabilities, risks and barriers to accessing services, or in terms of differences in immigrant and refugee women’s attitudes or habits as compared with what is considered the ‘norm’ in Australia.

Don’t get us wrong, these questions are important. But framing research about immigrant and refugee women solely in these ways runs the risk of painting immigrant and refugee women (and their cultural differences) as the problem that needs researching. Immigrant and refugee women, their attitudes and behaviour become the scapegoats for other questions we could be asking about inequity in our health system.

This is why we think an intersectional approach to research is so valuable. As we’ve mentioned before, immigrant and refugee women aren’t naturally more vulnerable (or deficient) than other women. They are made vulnerable by the systems and structures in which their lives and experiences are embedded. An intersectional approach that looks at the impact of structures on individuals can shift the focus on immigrant and refugee women’s health from pointing at ‘cultural difference’ to addressing the problem of inequality in our health systems. Going even further, intersectionality can expose the processes that create categories such as race and culture, and how they are used to categorise people.

This month at the Evidence for Equity: Multicultural Women’s Reproductive and Sexual Health National Conference, we heard in so many different ways that how we approach research about immigrant and women has real implications for women’s lives. Researchers need to recognise that their mode of inquiry will, to some extent, determine how their questions are answered. Research can only be socially transformative if the cultural, social, political, and economic contexts of immigrant and refugee women’s experiences are equally examined. By framing our questions in this way, we can expect to hear answers that more accurately reflect the lives and needs of immigrant woman in Australia today.

60 seconds with Solmaz Yavari: Queen fan, case manager and aspiring rodeo rider

Multi Cultural Hub Portraiture

What are you enjoying doing at the moment?
I do enjoy advocating for people rights and
I feel fortunate that I am in the position of being able to do so.

If you had a magic wand, what would you use it for?
If I had a magic wand, I would have used it to change the negative perceptions towards migrants, refugees and specifically asylum seekers.

What talent would you most like to possess?
I’d love to be rodeo rider!

What is the best part of your job?
As a case manager, I love it that my clients feel comfortable enough to share the personal challenges in their lives with me and that I can support them through their journey to make their decisions on what works for them best.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone new to Australia, what would it be?
I would say what one of my teachers told me while ago. He said: “If you plan to migrate to a country, you do need to know the history of your country and the country you migrating to, perfectly.

What’s your favourite word in the English language? Why?
I do not have a favourite word in English but one expression I love is “and I mean it this time”, probably because I do mean it this time!

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a woman from an immigrant or refugee background?
It has been quite challenging, in fact it has given me a lot of pain to prove what technical and professional skills I have brought to this country. I seem to have to prove myself over and over.

For you, what’s the best thing about being a woman from an immigrant/refugee background?
Being a woman from a different background has enabled me to be more thoughtful of the challenges other women from other backgrounds are facing. It helps me to understand them more and be able to build rapport more quickly with them. I understand.

Tell me about an amazing woman you know.
My friend Beverly, a retired primary school teacher. She was our first Australian friend in Australia who welcomed my family and I in a very sincere natural way. Bev included us as her family from the first day she met us. She is also amazing in what she has done in her personal life, a life full of giving and caring for others, and accepting others as they are regardless of their races.

What are you reading right now?
I am currently reading ‘No Man’s Land’ by David Baldacci.

Do you have a song/music that inspires and motivates you?
The song “Show Must Go On!” by Queen always makes me keep going however recently listening to the song “Despacito” inspires me a lot, specially this version by 2cellos.

What could you never be without?
Love.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
Stopping the wars.

If you could meet the Prime Minister tomorrow, what would like to tell him?
I would let him know how painful it can be to witness that families, children, single adults, fathers, mothers suffering day to day as a result of the current policy in place not being able to reunite with their families.

The WRAP#54-Achieving reproductive justice: a case of intersectional thinking, the costs of motherhood and 60 Seconds with Sasha Sarago

The month of May is inherently woman focused with the celebration of mothers everywhere on Mother’s Day and through raising awareness of women’s sexual and reproductive rights on International Day of Action for Women’s Health.

Using an intersectional approach, we unpack what exactly reproductive justice means, particularly in relation to immigrant and refugee women and women of colour. We also question what the true cost of being a mother is: it seems we all have a bit of gender equality work to do if we’ve yet to show how much we value and appreciate the unpaid work that mothers do.

Last but not least, we chat with Ascension magazine founder Sasha Sarago about celebrating your culture and being true to yourself.

Until next time,
The WRAP team.

Achieving reproductive justice: a case of intersectional thinking

Image//www.time.com

Image//www.time.com

The concept of choice, like the language of human rights, is essentially a good thing. Having choices (or rights) implies that you also have the freedom and ability to act on every option (or right) available to you. However, when it comes to women’s reproductive health the issue of rights, (just like choice), becomes decidedly tricky.

Today in many parts of the world it’s International Day of Action for Women’s Health (28th May). As with previous years, the call for action has focused on the need to uphold women’s sexual and reproductive rights. However, there has also been a marked shift towards using the term ‘sexual and reproductive justice’ in appeals to ensure women’s rights to sexual and reproductive health are upheld. Rights? Justice? Is there a difference? Over and above the dictionary definitions, the difference is unequivocally intersectional.

As with intersectionality, it is important to note that it was also black feminists who originally coined ‘reproductive justice’ as a way of highlighting the issue of ‘reproductive choice’ for women of colour. Women of colour who do not have the resources and who are not publicly supported to ‘choose’ their reproductive options.

Audre Lorde has highlighted that ‘there is no such thing as a single issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives’ and this is exactly the case with women’s health. Women are not just biological bearers of babies- they’re also siblings, students, workers, leaders, lovers and many other things unconnected from their uterus. This is the meaning of reproductive justice: it shifts the focus of improving women’s health from one based solely on ‘choice’ and ‘rights’ to one that recognises the political contexts of women’s lives.

For immigrant and refugee women this means ensuring that public policy and institutions, such as immigration and health systems, uphold women’s rights to access good quality medical care, free from ill-treatment such as discrimination and forced medical intervention. The violation of immigrant women’s rights during pregnancy, childbirth and the post-partum period has been described as obstetric violence, which is a form of violence against women that is often overlooked.

A reproductive justice framework can be a means for highlighting the intersections of different forms of institutional violence and violence against women. It’s a framework that includes a woman’s right to not have a child as well as her right to have children and parent them in dignity in safe and supportive environments. If we want to ensure these rights are upheld, the choice is clear: we should work towards achieving reproductive justice to fix the structural changes needed for addressing the wellbeing of all women.

The costs of motherhood

Image// www/palmpressinc.com

Image// www.palmpressinc.com

May is a special time of year for many mothers, when children and partners take the time to acknowledge how much we owe to the mums in our lives. Of course someone has taken the time to figure out how much Australians spend on Mother’s Day (just over $2 billion including $200 million on flowers). But the cost of motherhood – the emotional, physical and financial investment that women make as mothers – continues to be relatively unquantifiable.

The flowers may have faded, the breakfasts and lunches and chocolates well and truly digested, but this May, along with the federal budget, there have been a few more reasons to think about mothers and what it costs to be one.

Even if we don’t have a clear bottom line about the costs of motherhood, we can definitely look to research for some indications. A recent study found that in families with young children, mothers do a great deal more unpaid work than fathers, even when they are not the ‘stay-at-home parent’. Stay-at-home mums devote 74 hours per week to housework and child care, compared to 47 hours for stay-at-home dads, a difference of 1,404 hours per year. When paid work comes into the picture, paid-working mothers do an extra 104 hours of unpaid housework and childcare per year in addition to their paid work than their dad counterparts.

Physical labour is one thing, but the mental load of motherhood is another, as is beautifully illustrated in a recent visual think piece from Emma. For most mothers, the common expectation that they will be in charge of household management does not shift when women take on additional roles including paid work. And of course, we all know how this translates into financial costs: the gender pay gap, the fight for access to maternity leave and discrimination against mothers in the workplace, to name a few.

Mothers are expected to work for love, not money, but cost is often the bottom line, and motherhood is very much a user-pays system. In the forever shifting landscape of temporary visas for example, motherhood now has a new price-tag. As part of the proposed federal budget this year, the government outlined a new temporary visa – which allows migrant parents to stay in Australia for up to 10 years for $20,000 and the cost of private health insurance. Migrant mums and dads who can afford the visa will not be allowed to conduct paid work. However, there is an expectation that they will make up an unpaid workforce of ‘Granny Nannies’. As Assistant Minister for Immigration Mr. Hawke said, ‘Grandparents will be available and able to, under this visa, care for their grandchildren while the parents work.’

Mothering is priceless and no-one wants to live without it. But economics are deeply gendered and it’s clear that despite the huge contribution to the economy that mothers and grandmothers make, the cost is largely carried by individual women. Social policy that is based on a user-pays ideology only makes women pay even more to be mothers and entrenches women’s disadvantage.

Mothers need to see their work valued. If we could develop social policy that recognises the intrinsic value that mothering brings to society as a whole, we would see more productive, gender equitable and sustainable outcomes. Forget the flowers, all our days would be mother’s days.

60 seconds with Sasha Sarago

Sasha Sarago

Editor and co-founder of Ascension magazine and proud Aboriginal woman

What are you enjoying doing at the moment?
Right now I am enjoying my research of Indigenous feminism and Australia’s colonial frameworks for a documentary I am producing.

If you had a magic wand, what would you use it for?
If I had a magic wand, I would use it to help the masses realise and utilise their true potential.

What do you most value in your friends?
I value my friend’s generosity. I love my friend’s capacity to love with all their heart. I admire how they offer their knowledge freely and support my dreams. I marvel at their ability to challenge me to be the best version of myself. And I adore how they nurture my emotional and spiritual growth.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone new to Australia, what would it be?
The most important piece of advice I would impart to someone new to Australia is to protect, maintain and celebrate your culture and identity with every fibre of your being.

What’s your favourite word in any language? Why?
My favourite word is “Girgorou” which means beautiful in Jirrbal my grandmother’s language; we are the Rainforest people of Far North Queensland. I love this word because it describes my people and our language, country and culture.

If you could invite any woman, (dead or living) to dinner, who would it be and why?
It would be my grandmother. Firstly, I would love to meet her. Unfortunately, she died long before I was born. I would ask her about our Jirrbal culture and what it was like living as an Aboriginal woman in her time. I’d also ask her to share every piece of wisdom she could pass on to me for the next generation.

What are you reading right now?
Skin Deep: Settler impressions of Aboriginal women, by Dr Liz Conor.

If you could convince the world of one thing, what would it be?
We are all human beings. Nothing more, nothing less.