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



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

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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.

WHAV looks forward to a Victoria free from family violence


WHAV looks forward to a Victoria free from family violence
Victoria’s peak body for women’s health, safety and wellbeing congratulates the Victorian government on standing strong on their commitment to all 227 recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence. The Women’s Health Association of Victoria (WHAV) believes the unprecedented investment of $1.9B will go a long way to making the difference that is needed for women and children experiencing violence to get the service responses they need to live free from violence.

WHAV is pleased to see a strong focus on improving family violence responses within culturally diverse, LGBTI and Aboriginal populations. We are also impressed with the investment in building the capacity of the family violence and social services workforces to prevent and respond to family violence.

WHAV Convenor, Kristine Olaris says “To end violence against women we need long term, coordinated action to change the social structures, norms and cultures that enable and support violence against women and children. Gender equality is the key.”

WHAV welcomes the inclusion of $50.7M in the budget to prevent family violence, which includes the implementation of today’s exciting release, the Free From Violence prevention strategy. It also funds a new state-wide independent Family Violence Prevention Agency to oversee the work in prevention. This is an important mechanism to ensure the longevity of this vital prevention focus beyond government cycles. The budget also includes $5.9M to implement Safe and Strong; A Victorian Gender Equality Strategy.

WHAV see these investments in prevention as an important show of the State government’s commitment to ending family violence in Victoria. We anticipate and will welcome additional funds in subsequent years to ensure the full implementation of the Safe and Strong, and Free From Violence strategies.
– Ends –

Media enquiries: Kristine Olaris, WHAV Convenor, 9851 3700 or

Who is the WHAV?
The Women’s Health Association of Victoria (WHAV) is the peak body for women’s health, safety and wellbeing across Victoria. WHAV represents the nine regional and two state-wide women’s health organisations (Women’s Health Victoria and the Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health) funded by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services. WHAV membership also includes Victorian specialist women’s organisations; Women with Disabilities Victoria, Positive Women and WIRE.

In order to improve health outcomes for women, our current key priorities include the prevention of violence against women, the promotion of gender equity and women’s sexual and reproductive health.

Regional women’s health services have been leading Prevention of Violence Against Women Action Plans in every metropolitan and rural region across the State, with support from other WHAV members.

WHAV: The women’s health peak body with specialist expertise, state-wide reach and a
regional focus

World Congress on Public Health- Field Visit to MCWH (7th April 2017)

On the 3-7th April, the 15th World Congress on Public Health was held in Melbourne. During this time, The Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health (MCWH) hosted a field visit where we were fortunate enough to welcome and meet like-minded, passionate people from all over the world, including fellow Australians who are leaders in their field on health and wellbeing.

We had the opportunity to talk with visitors who specifically selected our organisation as part of their visit to Melbourne, including: Indigenous Allied Health, UCLA World Policy Analysis Centre, Umea University, The University of Western Australia, The University of Connecticut- Women & Health, School of Public Health-Sydney University, University of Papua New Guinea, Central Michigan University, Lagos State University, The University of Melbourne, Breastscreen Victoria and Alcohol and Drug Foundation, Victoria.

Some of MCWH’s resources on show and available at the library

Joyce Jiang, Health Promotions Manager, welcomed the delegates and gave an overview of the work and the various programs and projects undertaken at MCWH. Joyce spoke about the ongoing drive behind our organisation that started over 35 years ago and how we continue to use the same approach to delivering health information, research, health education and training to migrant and refugee women all over Australia.

Amira Rahmanovic, Health Education Program Manager, shared her experience and boundless energy about the health education sessions we conduct in multicultural communities across Victoria. Our Bilingual Health Educators Manasi Wagh-Nikam and Yanping Xu had the opportunity to speak on behalf of the dynamic Bilingual Educator’s team and share their own experiences of facilitating sessions using the peer educator’s model approach.

Monique Hameed, National Training Officer, spoke of the impact and the complexities of the term ‘cultural competence’ and challenged this term, citing how her training program looks beyond cultural competence. Medina Idriess, who has been a constant ambassador and FARREP worker for the Family and Reproductive Education Program for over 20 years, also spoke about her role at MCWH. In her role Medina has been an integral part of the changes and education that have taken place all over the world in the practice of Female Genital Cutting. Medina retold the story of when the controversial conversation about female genital cutting first started in Victoria and the implications for our work in the education and prevention of this practice today.

Manasi addresses the delegates

Manasi addresses the delegates

The delegates learning about MCWH

The delegates learning about MCWH








We would like to thank everybody at the Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health for being such an integral part of the day and we would also like to sincerely thank our new friends who took the time to find out a bit more about the uniqueness of our work at MCWH. After meeting the delegates on the day, it is inspiring to be sitting on a platform with people who share a similar, if not the same philosophy, of supporting migrant and refugee women and their health on a global level.