The WRAP # 28: Party Spoilers, 2014 Highlights and 60 seconds with Hale Yildiz

_MG_3061_MilaRobles

Can it be that we are at the end of another year?

It feels like we have come a long way in such a short space of time. Thanks to everyone who has supported us this year, we feel like we’ve made so many new friends and allies and we just couldn’t do the work we do without you! Special thanks to those of you who came to see us at our AGM celebration. It was great to hear diverse voices talking about the impact our work has had on women and organisations, and it was a wonderful way to end the year. If you missed it, why not check out the video presentation we screened on the day!
To celebrate the end of 2014, we’re counting six of the best gifts the year gave us, celebrating the party spoilers and spending a fascinating 60 seconds with the newest member of the MCWH family,  Hale Yildiz.

For those of you who get a break in the coming weeks, have a happy, healthy break and we hope to see you safe and well in 2015.

The Highlights of 2014

The end of the year can be strange mixture of merriment and mayhem and in the rush to wrap it up, we can lose sight of the many things that have already have been accomplished.

And we’re not just talking about the countless household chores done, shopping lists ticked and work plans completed. We mean the achievements and milestones that make us want to give each other a collective pat on the back. Immigrant and refugee women rejoice!

So in tribute to gifts that can’t be gift-wrapped, here are our top six gifts that 2014 gave to immigrant and refugee women around the globe.

Photo Iman Tahbaz
(Image Iman Tahbaz)

1. Pride

Whatever you might think of marriage, weddings are celebrations of the power of love and the joy of expressing it publicly. Sahar Mosleh and Maryam Iranfar’s wedding made world news when it was blessed by an Imam during Stockholm’s Pride celebrations in August. The couple who met nine years ago were expecting their first child and have overcome many prejudices in order to be together. French-Algerian Imam, Ludovid Mohamed Zahed, who is also gay, said “I’m glad that this is a happy couple who can now form a family after many years of struggle. It’s a long journey to leave your homeland, come to a foreign country and manage to form a new life together.’ When we heard about Sahar and Maryam’s wedding in August, we felt jubilant and proud of what these two women have achieved in the name of love. And in terms of political clout, for us it trumps that other much-reported wedding this year (Amal Alamuddin and who?).

Santiago Times Pro-choice March 25 July 2013
(Image: The Santiago Times)

2. Affirmation

In July, the U.N. called on both Chile and Ireland to revise their restrictive abortion laws and in November, the United Nations Committee Against Torture discussed the discriminatory laws blocking reproductive health services to immigrant women in detention centres and the lack of access to abortion for low-income women of colour in the United States. U.N. member states have been urged to heed this message: reproductive rights are human rights. It bolsters the spirits to know that the UN is ready to stand up and demand the sexual and reproductive rights that so many women around the world fight for on a daily basis.

UMKC PRIDE Lecture featuring Laverne Cox cropped
(Image: UMKC: PRIDE Lecture featuring Laverne Cox)

3. Visibility

This year Laverne Cox became the first openly transgender actor to be nominated for an Emmy. She is also African American. At a time when Australian television continues to be largely bereft of people of colour, and still not really comfortable with portraying characters from LGBTI communities (token appearances and characters don’t count), Laverne’s nomination is truly trail-blazing.

Elizabeth award
(Image: MCWH)

4. Recognition

Closer to home, our own Elizabeth Mazeyko MCWH bilingual educator received the Heart Foundations’ President’s  Award for her significant contribution to improving the heart health of Victorian women. The award is much more than validation (we always knew Elizabeth was a world-class educator), it’s also a sign of public respect and recognition of the often invisible and tireless contribution immigrant and refugee women make every day.


(Image: Sarah-Ji: Out of the Shadows, Into the Streets)

5. Rights

Last month, President Obama announced an executive order that will protect up to 5 million undocumented migrants living in the U.S.A. from deportation.  The step is tentative and conditional (there is much more that can and should be done for immigrants who are not citizens), but some of the reasons behind the President’s decision should give Australia pause for thought: America is a land of immigrants and always will be; America is a country where everyone has the right to have a chance. What a difference it makes when the basis for policy and action is not fantasy and fear, but reality and rights.

European Parliament A Heroine, a survivor Malala Yousafzai receives the 2013 Skaharov Prize(European Parliament: ‘A Heroine, A Survivor’ on flickr)

6. Conviction

When Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October, almost two years to the day after being shot for campaigning for girls’ education in Pakistan, it seemed a fitting recognition of the power of her convictions and the strength that comes from standing up for what you believe in. In such a short space of time, 16-year old Malala has become an iconic figure for girls’ rights worldwide, and her ordeal has only strengthened her determination and her voice. Her commitment and confidence that she can and will make a difference in Pakistan is inspiring. And it’s inspiring because she shows us, just by being Malala, that conviction is all it takes.

Celebrating the Party Spoilers

Untitled (Sergey Sus/flickr)

Sergey Sus untitled

Whether it’s the end-of-year work parties, the start-of-summer BBQs or family get-togethers, for many of us December is a time of intense socialising. That’s why December is also a particularly dangerous month for becoming ‘the party spoiler’.

We have all been there: standing around at a party, overhearing someone telling a sexist joke or a racist joke or a sexist and racist joke, and thinking, I really need to say something but then I’m going to be labelled “the party spoiler” or “the troublemaker” or “the one who can’t take a joke”.

Each of us will have a different level of comfort about speaking up. Some of us wouldn’t hesitate. But it is not always an easy thing to take the plunge and “spoil the party”, particularly if the “offender” is someone you want or need to get along well with: your uncle, your neighbours or your partner’s new boss. Power relationships still exist at parties and many of us can be intimidated to disagree with work colleagues in positions of power, or with relatives who may be our elders. As immigrant and refugee women, choosing to speak out in these situations can make us feel like we’re creating more distance between ourselves and the person whose opinions we find offensive. And it’s a party, after all, we should just let it go, shouldn’t we?

There is no right or wrong way to handle these situations and everyone is different. But at this time of festivity and joy, we’d like to celebrate all the party spoilers out there. Thank you for speaking out, thank you for taking the lead in reducing racism and sexism in our world, and thank you for taking risks on our behalf.

We wish you well this December. Because it’s your party too, and you don’t need an unchallenged sexist or racist joke or opinion spoiling it for you. And if you look around there will probably be someone else at the party, standing not very far away, maybe even next to you, whose great time was getting spoiled too. And to them, you just saved the party.

60 seconds with Hale Yildiz

Hale

Politics enthusiast, blogger and Latin dancer

What are you enjoying doing at the moment?
I am really enjoying having more time to dance! Having had an extremely busy schedule this last year, I had completely forgotten what I was missing out on.

What is the best thing that happened to you today?
I discovered there are still some universities in Europe that are free. There is still hope for youth.

If you were a super-heroine, what powers would you like to have? Or if you had a magic wand what would you use it for?
On a personal level I’d really appreciate the ability to travel across time and space as an alternative to victimised backpacking in questionable transport, as well as for a heightened awareness of our time and place on a greater spectrum.
On a societal level, my magic wand would be most useful for regenerating world’s natural resources. Unfortunately, solving the problem of access and distribution would still fall beyond the means of any one magic wand to address.

What is the best part of your day?
The best part of my average day is every single morning I have to myself where I can relax skimming through interesting articles and sipping organic green tea. The best part of my job is gaining the awareness that, everyday, there is more positive change contemplated or initiated than the accumulation of grievances.

If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
I would be a top economic advisor to world’s transnational decision-making bodies such as the IMF or the World Bank. Just to ensure quality control on sensitive economic decisions that affect the globe…

What do you most value in your friends?
Especially for someone who is constantly on the move, the most valuable things for me are those friends who instil a sense of rootedness, stability and balance to what is otherwise a chaotic blur of urban life, power schedules and fast living.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a woman from an immigrant or refugee background?
The hardest thing to go through as an immigrant has been feeling that my lived experience, past struggles, previous professional and personal milestones amount to something of little value and therefore having to start over from scratch. In thinking about the challenges of moving to a different continent, one of the hardest things to see is a lifetime worth of accumulated cultural and financial assets no longer hold the same value.

Can you describe a time when you felt discriminated against as a woman or as someone with an immigrant or refugee background?
I don’t experience discrimination as often as I hear about it. But one of the gaping moments was when I was held for questioning for several hours before being let through French customs as my accommodation papers were in my suitcase just on the other side of the gate. I watched a fair bit of Anglo-Saxon looking, fair-skinned backpackers pass through with ease, with nothing that remotely resembled an itinerary, let alone residential confirmation.

What’s the best thing about being a woman from an immigrant/refugee background?
I can easily say that the experience of being a part of several different worlds, being able to speak different languages and how all of this translates to an elevated sense of individual and societal awareness has given me much more than the tragedies of moving away from home.

If you could invite any woman (dead or living) to dinner tonight, who would it be?
Simone de Beauvoir. It would be a long dinner.

Tell me about an amazing woman you know.
My mother of course. The first female Turkish attaché; the multitasking, multitalented, beautiful Goddess.

Name a book or film that changed your life.
I recently reread A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, in light of current major geopolitical shifts in the Middle East. Perhaps not life-changing as such, but it certainly broke my heart and led me to think deeper into impacts of extremism, patriarchy and colonialism.

What are you reading right now? (e.g. blogs, books, magazines, or anything else!)
Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis. Because dysfunctional financial systems fascinate me.

What is your favourite possession?
My MacBook Air. Yes, I am a child of technology what can I say…

What could you never be without?
Inner peace. Life would become substantially tiring otherwise.

What does multiculturalism mean to you?
Beyond cohabitation and cross-cultural contact, multiculturalism exemplifies an innate ability to empathise with and internalise diversity. The world is already largely multicultural in theory, the next step is to make it work.

If you could convince the world of one thing, what would it be?
Sigh, climate change…

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
Our sad economic system and the ingrained system of incentives and entitlements. I’d like to bring equity as an organising principle, instead of profit and growth.

Finish this sentence: “We need feminism because…”
We need to be reminded of the value of gender-based input. Social change and positive ideas come from all elements of humanity, be it gender, sex, race, ethnicity or religion.

MCWH goes to Mt Eliza

camp AMES

Last Saturday, MCWH had the opportunity to take part in a community education program for immigrant and refugee women run by AMES (the largest provider of humanitarian settlement, education, training and employment services for refugees and newly arrived migrants). As part of their annual three-day camp, MCWH bilingual educators delivered four fantastic sessions on women’s wellbeing and sexual and reproductive health to around 100 women from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds including Iranian, Afghani, Iraqi, Chinese, Indian and Burmese.

The camp was an excellent opportunity to reach recently arrived women, most of whom had never participated in health education programs like this before. Women spoke of their knowledge and beliefs around certain health topics, and were able to ask questions and clarify their understanding of the information presented, specifically in relation to family planning and contraception, and breast and cervical health. Fantastic models, charts and other materials were used to support this process, which encouraged lots of group interaction and engagement.

At the end of the sessions, MCWH provided each woman with a showbag containing multilingual information, complimentary hygiene products, stationary and a football (physical activity is an integral part of healthy living!). We would like to sincerely thank the sponsors who generously donated products to make our gift to each woman so special: Marie Stopes, John Batman Group, Johnson & Johnson, Intandem, AFL Victoria and Parks Victoria.

As a result of the positive feedback from the sessions, MCWH has been invited to conduct more in-depth education sessions with AMES students in an upcoming project in Melbourne. Thanks to all the participants, our wonderful educators, Elizabeth Mazeyko and Manasi Wagh-Nikam, and to all the AMES staff involved, especially to Amrit Kaur, who provided a well-thought-out program and wonderful support and hospitality. We look forward to working with AMES in the future!