The WRAP #48- Giving a problem a name, informed choice and 60 seconds with Ruby

We close November with a sharp focus on domestic violence, as we kicked off 16 Days of Activism on November 25th, a date shared by White Ribbon Day and the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. For the next sixteen days we will be sharing an image of MCWH staff, communicating what needs to be done to end violence against ALL women.

We are also immensely proud to be launching the ASPIRE project-  a collaboration between the University of Melbourne, the Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health, and the University of Tasmania. ASPIRE is a community-based, participatory research project funded by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) which gathered evidence about immigrant and refugee women’s experiences and concerns of family violence. If you haven’t as yet done so, you can still register to attend the launch here.

The launch will also feature a photovoice exhibition with powerful photos taken by research participants.  One of the photovoice participants, Ruby, is featured as this month’s 60 Seconds interview

Until next time,
The WRAP team

Giving a problem a name

Image// IB Times UK

Image// IB Times UK

The 16 days of activism against gender-based violence are very special days in the political calendar. Right now, all over the world, including here at home, people are honouring women and girls, and recognising our right to live free of gender-based violence. We all come together in an intensive effort to name the harms caused by violence against women and girls, to dismantle the systems and norms that support and perpetuate it, and to create a new vision for a world without it.

And while we don’t always talk much about feminism during these 16 days, we do owe a huge historical and ongoing debt to feminist activists who have brought the issue of violence against women and girls to the world, and who importantly, have created the language that we use to talk about it.

By creating words and concepts like patriarchy, sexual harassment, misogyny and intersectionality, our feminist sisters have named women’s oppressions, the harms caused and the strategies to fight them. Happily, we now take this lexicon for granted so that it is no longer surprising to hear misogyny being called out, or to share a conviction with the majority that sexual harassment is wrong. But feminism is not a dying or historical movement: it is alive and well and feminists continue to play a crucial role in moving the thinking forward.

So during these 16 days of honouring women, we would like to send a special shout out to our feminist faves: the wonderful likes of Angela Davis, Kimberle Crenshaw, and Marai Larasi who have made it possible to name what we see. As another of our bests, Sara Ahmed has said, naming an experience as sexist not only gives an account of something that is wrong, it is also a demand for transformation. It is a way of saying ‘no’. The wrong is no longer acceptable.

Informed choice is essential to early intervention

Image// karenlins.com

Image// karenlins.com

Health professionals have an important role to play to address violence. Doctors are a universal service and it would make sense that they would be the first point of contact for women seeking assistance for a number of health-related issues, including domestic violence.

However, for immigrant and refugee women especially, the Australian health system is like entering a maze at the best of times. Disclosing to their GP about violence can sometimes open up more dilemmas and unanswered questions. If a woman already has difficulty navigating the health system- especially if cross-cultural communication is a barrier- how is she expected to act on information about violence support? It would be akin to entering yet another maze blindfolded and feeling your way through to the exits.

The problem isn’t that Immigrant and refugee women don’t know they’re experiencing violence. Our research shows women do and they know that it’s wrong. But what many women don’t know is how and where they can obtain the information they need to help resolve their situation. This need often arises before women are even ready to talk about their situation with anyone.

Women shouldn’t have to disclose experiences of violence before they receive information about the ways their problem can be dealt with. Women have every right to know all the information first before they can act – it’s part of making an informed decision and it’s impossible to make such a decision without all the necessary information. Women on temporary or bridging visas, for example, are doubly stymied because they also need to know what types of support their visa will allow.

The provision of bilingual support, whether through translated resources or trained bilingual workers, allows women to better weigh up their options. Women can then be equipped to make the best possible use of the allocated 15 minute consultation time with their GP, if and when they’re ready to seek their help and advice.

Crucially, accessing all available information provides women with some tactical advantage and a measure of control. While ignorance may in some cases be bliss, knowledge always translates into power, and in many cases, control. For immigrant and refugee women especially, this reinstatement of control is a necessity: the process of migration, visa entitlements and challenges of settlement can quickly erode women’s sense of autonomy.

Not knowing what all your possible options are when you’re experiencing or at risk of violence shouldn’t be another constraint placed on immigrant and refugee women: they have a right to access all the information they need and they have a right to access it in ways that are culturally appropriate, relevant and safe. Like any good safety plan, women need to have the exits clearly marked out for them. Bilingual prevention and support services and health professionals all have an equal and mutually supportive role to play in ensuring this happens.

60 seconds with Ruby

Ruby

ASPIRE Photovoice Artist and Persistent Wonder Woman

What are you enjoying doing at the moment?
I am enjoying being part of the ASPIRE Photo Project. It has been an amazing experience and I have been very fortunate to work with some extraordinary women. This project has allowed me to come out of my shell and express myself in an artistic manner which I could never have imagined before now.

If you were a super-heroine, what powers would you like to have?
I would like to be Wonder Woman and use her Lasso of Truth on our politicians.

If you had a magic wand, what would you use it for?
I would use the wand to make the poor rich and the rich poor. Give the poor a chance to smile.

What is your best quality or attribute?
Persistence.

If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
I would like to be an architect/builder so that I could design and erect buildings that are sustainable, intuitive and inclusive.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone new to Australia, what would it be?
Respect and love yourself. And be persistent.

What is your favourite word in any language? Why?
‘Gaea’ is my favourite word. Gaea was a Primal Greek Earth Goddess that predates patriarchal religions. We cannot live without Mother Earth, she nourishes and sustains us, she wipes away our tears with her softness and doesn’t give us false impressions. When you look at nature you see the cycle of life and death. Gaea does not separate life from death, only humans do that.

Can you describe a time when you felt discriminated against as someone with an immigrant background?
Every single day when I was at primary school. I knew when I woke up in the morning I would be called a ‘wog’ at some point during the day. I would be excluded from playing games during break times because I was a wog. So, I would go to the oval and create my own tree house and guess what? Those who found it hard to play with a wog would come to the Wog’s Tree House and ask to be invited in.

If you could invite any woman (dead or living) to dinner tonight, who would it be?
My Beautiful Mother, who never gave up even when cancer invaded her body.

Tell me about an amazing woman you know.
Well, many moons ago my mother walked into the local Bakery in our quiet town and asked the man behind the counter, in her broken English, ‘I would like a split Vienna please.’ The man behind the counter said, ‘sorry we don’t have any.’ My mother pointed to the loaf on the top shelf thinking perhaps the man didn’t see it. The man behind the counter said, ‘I told you we don’t have any.’ My mother took my hand and walked out of the store.

The second week my mother walked into the bakery and asked, ‘I would like a split Vienna please.’ The man behind the counter said, ‘sorry we don’t have any.’ My mother pointed to the loaf on the top shelf. ‘I told you we don’t have any,’ said the man behind the counter. My mother took my hand and walked out of the store.

The third week my mother walked into the bakery and said, ‘I would like a split Vienna please.’ The man behind the counter said, ‘sorry we do not have any.’ My mother pointed to the loaf on the top self. ‘I told you we do not have any’ said the man behind the counter. Another customer spoke up and said, ‘Excuse me mate, there is a loaf on the top shelf.’ The man behind the counter placed the loaf in a paper bag, my mother paid like every other customer, took my hand and walked out of the store. This is how my tenacious mother taught me about persistence.