Intersectionality Matters: A new resource for preventing violence against women

MCWH is thrilled to launch the Intersectionality Matters: Guide to engaging immigrant and refugee communities to prevent violence against women.

An earlier version of this resource was developed for Women’s Health Services in Victoria.

Based on positive feedback, the guide has been broadened to address a wider audience. The Intersectionality Matters Guide aims to help people and organisations develop violence prevention approaches, strategies and activities in a way that meaningfully engages immigrant and refugee communities.

The Guide is divided into three parts: how to approach prevention, essential ingredients for meaningful violence prevention, and prevention in practice. The guide can be downloaded here or contact MCWH if you would like to order a copy.

The WRAP #60: Getting a head start on prevention, Beyond the baby blues and 60 seconds with Rani Pramesti

The global and important 16 Days of Activism campaign has come around again –  a time to raise our voices against violence against women and girls in all its forms. It’s Day 3 already and we are going orange with the rest of Victoria, up until International Human Rights Day on 10 December. In particular, we are excited about our 16 Days special event in partnership with ECCV on 8 December.

This year’s theme campaign theme is “Leave No One Behind: End Violence against Women and Girls” It is a call to everyone “to make a commitment to a world free from violence for all women and girls around the world, while reaching the most underserved and marginalized, including refugees, migrants, minorities, indigenous peoples, and populations affected by conflict and natural disasters, amongst others, first.” We couldn’t agree more.

There are many reasons for us to demand the we leave no one behind at the moment. Many of us are calling loudly for humane and non-violent outcomes for asylum seekers on Manus Island and for the passing of new laws to include same-sex couples in the Marriage Act.

This WRAP we are reflecting on the feminist roots of prevention, as well as some of the most challenging examples of when women fall through the cracks. Best of all we have 60 seconds with the luminous Rani Pramesti to inspire us.

Until next time,
The WRAP Team

Getting a head start on prevention

Fight gender and race discrimination

Image from the MCWH 2016 Campaign for 16 Days

Preventing violence against women is a long-term endeavour. It requires deep cultural change in the way that we, as a community, practice our gendered interpersonal, family, workplace and social relationships. Alongside that cultural change, it means building women’s equality into our systems and structures, laws and policies.

We’ve already come a long way. Today, we know that gendered inequality is a key driver of violence against women. However we also know, but not quite as well, that focusing on gender alone will not change the story for all women.

The good news is that we are not starting this huge undertaking from a blank slate, thanks to feminism. According to our documented history, feminists around the world started eliminating violence against women hundreds of years ago. In Australia, for example, women’s rights activists like Rose Scott and Louisa Lawson campaigned to stop violence against women since the late 1880s, advocating for women’s suffrage as a route to autonomy and equality.

But as we are well aware, the suffrage movement had its exclusions, based as it was on winning the vote for white women only. When it comes to eliminating violence against Aboriginal women and migrant women in Australia, we don’t have the same head start, which is not to say that we haven’t been fighting and winning our own battles for women for centuries.

At least since the 1970s, drawing on intersectional thinking from the United States, migrant and Aboriginal feminists have been raising awareness about the ways that racism intersects with gendered inequality to contribute to violence against women. Strategies to prevent violence against women must oppose racism as much as they oppose sexism, in order to be meaningful, not just for Aboriginal and migrant women, but for all women. Without addressing all forms of violence, without addressing all women, we only band-aid the problem. An intersectional approach to prevention is needed in order to truly leave no one behind.

This of course is our next major challenge and here at MCWH we’re on it. Keep your eyes out for our latest resource, ‘Intersectionality Matters’, on our website in early December and get a head start on taking an intersectional feminist approach to prevention.

Beyond the baby blues

VAW factOn the one hand, motherhood may seem like one of the most natural things in the world. On the other, it all seems like hard work when the popular benchmarks for motherhood success are ‘yummy mummies’, backyard blitz homes and bouncy, shiny children. While the lived reality of mothering might lie somewhere in between, we rarely hear about what it’s like from women who experience motherhood within the messy middle. In particular, women with antenatal and/or postnatal depression can be doubly silenced by their emotional distress or by fears that their experiences will be written off as ‘lack of maternal instinct’ or failure. If you’re a woman from a migrant or refugee background, an additional form of silencing can come in the form of social and cultural isolation.

Tragically, the three recent cases of Akon Goude, Sofina Nikat and Umal Abdurahaman, mothers who have caused the death of their children, demonstrate that mothering can’t be separated from the complex circumstances of women’s lives. All three women were also immigrants who had experienced hardships beyond those typically associated with the ‘baby blues’: lack of a partner and social support, domestic violence, mental illness, adverse life events, unplanned pregnancies and past pregnancy complications. It should not be surprising that in a recent systematic review, all these socio-cultural factors were found to be most readily associated with antenatal depression and anxiety.

Highlighting the challenges and difficulties these women experienced should and does not excuse their actions. We feel a collective horror in the face of stories like these, not only because the victims are children, but because it challenges our beliefs about what a mother should do and be. However, when it comes to identifying women at risk of both maternal depression and domestic violence, the examples of Akon, Sofina and Umal highlight the importance of considering a women’s maternal context – not just individual pathology – in preventing adverse and fatal outcomes for both women and their children. If we are to improve the experiences of women who mother, then we need to ensure that we look beyond merely biological and clinical explanations, and recognise women’s experiences of mothering intersect with many other factors and contexts in her life experience.

MCWH presented at the Victorian Family and Community Development Committee Public Inquiry into Perinatal Services today. You can read MCWH’s Submission here.

60 seconds with Rani Pramesti

Rani_Sedih-Sunno-4Performance maker, intercultural producer and advocate for diversity in the arts

What are you enjoying doing at the moment?
Collaborating with an illustrator to adapt my previous performance work, Chinese Whispers, into a digital graphic novel.

What is the best thing that has happened to you today?
It’s possibly the best but also the most challenging  – challenging a family member’s homophobic views as we shared lunch together.

If you were a super-heroine, what powers would you like to have?
To zap everyone, especially people in positions of power, privilege and money, into realising the value of the arts and investing in it accordingly.

What is your best quality or attribute?
I bring people together.

What is the best part of your day?
My daily morning walk.

What do you most value in your friends?
Kindness.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone new to Australia, what would it be?
Have your own definition of who you are. Be careful of falling into the ‘acceptable’ ways in which ‘people like you’ are seen, e.g. you can argue that it is more acceptable for people of refugee backgrounds to be seen always through the lens of ‘Victim’ or ‘Grateful Recipient of Help’. The dominant culture can get angry at you when you fall out of this narrow definition and show yourself as fully in charge of your own life.

What’s your favourite word and why?
Bahasa Indonesia: menjiwai, the root word being ‘jiwa’ or ‘soul’. It’s when you become so at one with something that your soul merges with it. It is the verb, ‘to soul’.

For you, what’s the best thing about being a woman from an immigrant or refugee background?
Connecting with other Women of Colour through our shared pains but also our shared strengths and resilience.

Name a book or a film that changed your life
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

What are you reading right now?
Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine
Confluence in Collaborations by Kei Murakami
Silence by Thich Nhat Hanh (re-reading for the third time…)

What is your favourite possession?
My grandparent’s letters to each other.

What could you never be without?
My breath.

If you could meet the Prime Minister tomorrow, what would you like to tell him?
Stop taking up so much time and space. Listening is a form of action. Know your privileges and act from a place of responsibility based on this awareness.

You can support Rani’s Pozible Campaign for THE CHINESE WHISPERS 2018: a bilingual, digital graphic novel inspired by the racial violence of May 1998 in Indonesia.

MCWH Annual Report 2017

Annual reportWe are proud to present our annual report for the 2016-17 year. MCWH has worked with so many wonderful organisations to achieve great things for immigrant and refugee women’s health in Australia. We’d love to share our thanks and invite you to take a look at what makes multicultural women’s health so important.

Read the MCWH 2017 Annual Report

The WRAP #58: Promoting positive media, collective leadership and 60 seconds with Lisha Constantino-Murphy

Last month we wrote about the possibility of a poll on same-sex marriage and this month, as we all know, it’s a reality. If you’d like to read or share our take on same-sex marriage click here. If you’re looking for more inspiration, you should also watch this fabulous video created by Colour Code: Multicultural Communities for Marriage Equality.

We’ve had a splendid September full of achievements including placing second in the Women’s Street Soccer Interagency Tournament, speaking at the Cultural Diversity and News in Australia Symposium and hosting 30 amazing Indonesian women leaders as part of the Leadership Development Course for Islamic Women Leaders led by Deakin University in partnership with Australia Awards in Indonesia and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

We’re also excited to be advertising for a new part-time Project Officer role.

Meeting so many incredible women this month has inspired us to write about promoting positive media and the real power of women’s leadership. When it comes to positivity, inspiration and women working together, Lisha Constantino-Murphy is the perfect woman for our 60 seconds interview.

Until next time,
The WRAP Team

Promoting positive media

Artwork by unknown user saved by Muslimahs with Dreams on Pintrest

Throughout the history of Australian mass media, migrants have provided sensational opportunities for exciting news. Migrants have played the reliable fall guys, the ones that could be hauled out to boost newspaper circulation, or encourage widespread and divided debate about the troubled state of the nation.

Headlines about migrant thugs and crooks who are getting “shipped” back to their countries make great copy, and fit easily with well-known migrant stereotypes, particularly those of migrant men as aggressive and violent. When it comes to migrant women, the common stereotype that media reaches for is almost the complete opposite. Migrant women are depicted as passive, hyper-oppressed and in need of protection… mostly from migrant men.

Of course, these two corresponding stereotypes of migrant men and women feed into and reinforce the belief that migrant cultures are more traditional and backward. And of course this picture fits neatly into our favourite Australian narratives, including those that celebrate our egalitarian approach to life and our superior level of respect and equality for women.

Once you start to read between the lines, it’s clear that the tabloid kit bag is full of migrant stereotypes. And like all stereotypes, messages that rely on fixed narratives are limiting and ultimately do harm to those who are described in this way. If migrant women are represented as inherently passive and oppressed by their virulently patriarchal cultures, we overlook immigrant and refugee women’s active agency in their lives. Migrant women who identify positively with their cultures and migrant communities are sometimes wrongly represented  as promoting violence against women. None of these stereotypical narratives treat immigrant and refugee women with respect or individuality, nor do they promote immigrant women’s strength and resilience in determining the course of  their own lives.

Let’s create some new narratives and images of migrants and our diverse and valuable cultures and communities. Most importantly, let’s encourage the Australian media to elevate the visibility and voices of immigrant and refugee women as an important strategy to promote gender equality and to prevent violence against women. That would make sensational reading.

Leadership: a collective effort

Photo from the Leadership Development Course for Islamic Women Leaders visit to MCWH.

Photo from the Leadership Development Course for Islamic Women Leaders visit to MCWH.

Once again, new data confirms that women from immigrant backgrounds are disadvantaged when it comes to progressing to leadership positions in the workplace. This latest finding echoes the Australian Human Rights Commission’s study from the same time last year that highlighted key leadership positions across the business, government and tertiary sectors are still the stronghold of Anglo-Celtic men.

How can we make headway on the lack of immigrant women in visible leadership? Given that white men are not inherently better leaders, why do they dominate the leadership ladder while immigrant women are left to cling to the bottom rung? While more research is essential (good policy should be the result of good evidence), we think it’s equally important to make visible the contexts in which great leadership is recognised, valued and nurtured.

One step toward this is rethinking the idea of leadership as being only about individuals, as if personal characteristics are the deal-breakers in leadership success. There are, of course, many qualities that a great leader should have. However an overly prescriptive and overly individualised approach to leadership can hide the contexts – the circumstances – in which leadership roles are sought after, gained or, in the case of many immigrant women, never attained.

As we’ve pointed out before, many immigrant women have unique obstacles to negotiate (recognition of overseas qualifications for a start), which invariably limit their capacity to participate fully, if at all, in formal leadership opportunities. Immigrant and refugee women are subject to a ‘triple jeopardy’ of inequality due to their gender, ethnicity and immigrant status and it is this combination of factors that needs to be recognised as the starting point for promoting women’s leadership. To quote our Race Discrimination Commissioner, ‘breaking the glass ceiling and cracking the bamboo ceiling should not be regarded as mutually exclusive’. In other words, gender, cultural and racial diversity should be non-negotiable elements of inclusive and diverse leadership.

We need to stop viewing leadership as a highly individual project, only requiring individual effort or serving highly individualised ends. If immigrant women are under-represented or rather, locked out of the leadership ranks because of racism and discrimination, then we need to direct our collective leadership efforts towards changing the conditions of immigrant women’s lives. Collective leadership will involve supporting and celebrating individual women on their own leadership paths. However more than that, collective leadership will raise the circumstances of all immigrant women, and push through whatever manner of ceiling is set – glass, bamboo or patriarchal. We might even bring the house down.

60 seconds with Lisha Constantino-Murphy

Lisha (002)Story creator and aspiring documentary maker

What are you enjoying doing at the moment?
At the moment I am enjoying the fact that I can celebrate some of my team’s achievements, particularly in community-based health promotion (at Djerriwarrh Health Services). Last weekend we celebrated the Dream Big Festival in Melton South for the third year in a row. Melton South is marked by experiences of disadvantage, and when we began working there the residents had to overcome stigma and negative perceptions associated with their community. Seeing the Melton South community showcasing their art, culture, talent and generosity was an absolute pleasure to be part of. It was a vibrant celebration of a community coming together. It has been really rewarding seeing all the relationships that have been formed, the collaborative actions which have taken place around preventing violence against women, promoting social inclusion and cohesion and the stronger sense of community that has been built through our work.

If you had a magic wand, what would you use it for?
I would love to have a happiness wand, I feel like there are so many people out there who are battling mental health issues. There is still so much stigma attached to mental health and it makes it even more difficult for people to look after themselves and, more importantly, to ask for help when they need it. My magic wand would help bring happiness to those who are struggling with their mental health, I know how disabling it can be.

What talent would you most like to possess?
I wish I could sing. Singer/song writers have so much power as they tell and share stories to last the ages.

What is your best quality or attribute?
I believe I’m a good friend. I really value friendships I think they can get us through the worst of times and make our happiest moments even richer!

What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is that it is largely unpredictable. Having worked in Health Promotion for close to a decade I am passionate about the power of community and have been fortunate enough to have roles where I work with communities to realise their aspirations. It has been such a beautiful ride and I never stop being blown away by the creativity, generosity and innovation that comes from community.

If you could have any job in the world what would it be?
I feel pretty lucky to be doing the type of working I am doing but if I had to choose a fantasy job I would love to be a documentary filmmaker travelling the world documenting people’s stories, especially the stories of women.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone new to Australia, what would it be?
I came to Australia as a child so I suppose my experiences of settlement would be very different to an adult, especially adults coming to Australia with their families. Growing up there is so much emphasis on trying to fit in and trying to belong. If I could give advice to a young person that is new to Australia I would say that although it can be hard sometimes, try and celebrate all that is unique and different about you. Everything that makes us different and unique is actually the gift we give back to the world, it helps us find our purpose, so don’t ever, ever trade it in to be just like everyone else.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a woman from an immigrant or refugee background?
Always feeling that I have to catch up because I didn’t have the same foundation or starting point as my peers. This was probably more pronounced when I first arrived in Australia and I had to learn the language and deal with the settlement issues my parents were navigating at the time such as finding meaningful employment, social networks and support.

Can you describe a time where you felt discriminated against as a woman or as someone with an immigrant and refugee background?
I don’t think a week goes by where my race, cultural identity or background isn’t raised. Although it is not always negative, the comments always make me aware that I’m perceived as ‘different’ and because of that I feel judged in a way.

For you, what’s the best thing about being a woman from an immigrant refugee/ background?
The fact that I have story, a story of survival from the journey that I have travelled with my family. I love the fact that the history of my family is only just being created in Australia and that we are in turn influencing Australia’s history.

If you could invite any woman, (dead or living) to dinner, who would it be and why?
So many! My grandmother for one, who I never met, she was a poet who died from a broken heart. Frida Kahlo, Maya Angelou, Michelle Obama, Amy Winehouse, Arundhati Roy, Merlinda Bobis, it would be quite a party. I have always believed amazing things come out of women being together.

Tell me about an amazing woman you know.
I want to talk about three women, my mum Jovita and two younger sisters, Aimee and Clarisse. They are all amazing in their own way.  My mum has never stopped fighting for as long as she has been alive. I hope she knows how much I love, respect and admire her. Mum has worked in disability service for over twenty years, a job that is tough on her body and spirit, but this has never wavered her commitment to ensuring the individuals she cares for live meaningful, dignified lives. My younger sisters are my best friends and they are both my source for inspiration and strength. They have both gone through so much, especially our youngest Clarisse and she continues to live out her life with a strength and dignity beyond her years.