MEET OUR TEAM
What did you want to be when you were a kid? I spent my childhood in the country and was obsessed with horses, so I wanted to be a veterinarian. Oh, and an Olympic horse riding champion, then a singer, then a business woman in Japan, until I came across the subject ‘Third World Development’ and was drawn to work on women’s issues in developing countries.
What happened in-between? I studied a lot, moved to the Maldives (where my family is from) and started conducting research on violence against women, met lots of inspiring women, did my PhD, got married, moved to Bangkok to work for the United Nations, met more inspiring women and men, had a baby, published a book, had twins, moved to South Africa to run a global programme on the prevention of violence against women, had an emotional breakthrough, reassessed my life, started this organisation, and now I get to work with this amazing crew.
What are you doing now? Do you like that? I’m running this exciting start-up and trying to balance that with being a mindful mother and pursue my creative writing passions. I love everything about my life. Although I’m still tired most of the time.
Does the patriarchy get you down? Like, do you ever just feel really annoyed by the way women get treated? Yes, in the past it has gotten me down a lot. So much so that I’ve had to be very conscious about what I expose myself to. Since I’ve had kids I don’t watch the news much and I don’t do any frontline services work. So I appreciate more than ever the people who do. But mostly I’m passionate and hopeful. I’m an eternal optimist and I know I can be of more use to the world and to this issue if I stay that way.
Who's your fave feminist icon? bell hooks
What did you want to be when you were a kid? A teacher. Part of me still does.
What happened in-between? I had a love affair with China and ended up living in a small town in Eastern China. I had a few defining moments while I was there and so came home to focus on gender and development.
What are you doing now? Do you like that? I pretty much have my ideal job right now – gender-focused research. I’m working on a bit of everything from the world over.
Does the patriarchy get you down? Like, do you ever just feel really annoyed by the way women get treated? All the time. I can’t even get on my bicycle to ride down to the shops without being yelled at. It’s the little things like that frustrate me the most. But I do think there is a gradual shift in societal thought and behaviour. The hope and belief in that keeps me going.
Who's your fave feminist icon? Can I have two? Sylvia Plath and Cynthia Enloe. Both women had a huge impact on me. Plath on how I viewed myself as a young woman, and Enloe in influencing the way I interpreted the world. Over the years there have been many amazing women I’ve known personally and read extensively who continue to inspire and challenge me, and I love that.
What did you want to be when you were a kid? I think this was something that shifted fairly often – from pop star, to equestrian champion, to anthropologist. So while I’ve never had a single, outright answer to this question, I’ve always wanted to be active and engaged.
What happened in-between? I started studying law and international relations and quickly discovered a curiosity and passion for research. This took me to anthropology, gender studies and international development, which in turn has taken me on a journey through far-flung corners of Asia and the Pacific. I found my passion and engagement has landed me squarely on my feet as a strong, feminist researcher.
What are you doing now? Do you like that? A very fortunate stream of events led me to where I am now: travelling and engaging in innovative research to contribute to the end of gender inequality and violence against women, which I love.
Does the patriarchy get you down? Like, do you ever just feel really annoyed by the way women get treated? It gets me every day. I can’t comprehend all the discriminatory beliefs and hatred that seem to flood the world. People are people are people are people! But then I breathe in, take a moment to block out that white noise, and am reminded of the strength and compassion of the people that I have surrounded myself with.
Who’s your fave feminist icon? There are so many women who I believe speak with clarity, eloquence and confidence, reflecting a diversity of feminist experiences and opinions. More than anyone else, my girl gang: the amazing group of women that surrounds me and is constantly expanding and inspiring. They’re creative women, smart women, courageous women, driven women. Women who care and craft and speak and know and remind me to “just do you” and the rest will follow.
What did you want to be when you were a kid? Many things, which changed from week to week, but the main theme was working with animals - I either wanted to be a vet, the next David Attenborough, or work with gorillas as the next Dian Fossey.
What happened in-between? An unexpected life path - so many things I never expected happened to me. In short, I overcame adversity, found design as my calling, and grew and grew and traveled around the world and slowly formed into the person I am now.
What are you doing now? Do you like that? I've just moved to Melbourne from Sydney - I packed up my life and left everything I'd ever known with nothing solidified down here. Now I feel for the first time in my life that I am where I am meant to be - I feel at home in Melbourne and so stoked about everything going on in my life. It's all really exciting and the best bit is being able to do something I love and am really passionate about for work.
Does the patriarchy get you down? Like, do you ever just feel really annoyed by the way women get treated? Oh, all the time. I feel like we grow up being conditioned to have all these thoughts and ideas that are totally wrong. The way I found feminism was almost like stepping out from a fog, and realising that so much about the way we live is a product of the patriarchal system currently in place, and that has to change! So as much as it gets me down, it feels good to be aware of it and to make change. It's really empowering knowing that you will no longer keep your mouth shut when some creep tells you to 'smile more'.
Who’s your fave feminist icon? So so many, I can't name one icon - but can I say instead that the most inspiring feminist content available online is to me the StyleLikeU team creating the What's Underneath project. It's the most incredible series of interviews with all these amazingly diverse and inspiring people.
What did you want to be when you were a kid? I went back and forth between gardener, Jedi Knight, and lawyer. Thankfully I still get to engage in activities related to these fields today.
What happened in-between? My family and I happened to move around the world every few years. So I ended up living and studying in Australia, India, Nigeria, the U.S.A, the Netherlands and England. I couldn’t help but become fascinated with the diversity of lived human experiences across the globe.
What are you doing now? Do you like that? I’m studying International Development and working on gender equality with the best team at the EQI. I’m glad I took the time to reflect and figure out what I’m truly passionate about. Being excited about the day’s work ahead really helps when waking up in the morning.
Does the patriarchy get you down? Like, do you ever just feel really annoyed by the way women get treated? All the time. Once you become aware of the patriarchy, you see it everywhere and constantly. I find that boxing really helps-to create a physical outlet for the frustration. Also, everyday micro forms of resistance, and positive discourse that spreads awareness and education are great ways to keep your chin up.
Who's your fave feminist icon? I currently have two feminist icon obsessions. First, Naila Kabeer, who brings feminist underpinnings into social exclusion and labor market issues in developing contexts. Also, Elizabeth Warren, the US senator, with her unabashed idealism in tackling unjust financial systems. But my first feminist idol was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She forgoes the gendered expectations placed on her as a woman, and fights for more important things like saving the world.
RESEARCH & PROGRAM COORDINATOR
What did you want to be when you were a kid? A marine biologist. I’ve always been an environmentalist at heart and, thanks to the inspiration from my wonderful 5thgrade teacher, I spent many of my young teenage years making household cleaning detergents out of lemon and vinegar and designing educational toys for orangutans living in captivity. I’ve also always loved water, so I thought, “What would be better than being able to save the environment while being in the sea?”
What happened in-between? Growing up in Beijing (which is quite far from the sea), I began to be more interested in human injustice and inequality. In my first year of uni, I randomly selected an ‘Introduction to Gender Studies’ course and the way I saw the whole world around me shifted. All of a sudden, it baffled me why, when I needed to pee, I associated myself with a stick figure in a skirt rather than a stick figure in pants, even though I usually wore pants! It was like I had put on ‘gender awareness glasses’ and I couldn’t take them off. I enrolled in more and more Gender Studies classes, eventually doing Honours in Gender Studies and Asian Studies and, later, a Masters in Gender and Development. Through the years, I worked for everything from small NGOs to the UN, and my focus moved towards deeper forms of gender injustice: violence against women.
What are you doing now? Do you like that? I’m based in beautiful Timor-Leste, which is my home for now, coordinating research and programs around Asia and the Pacific to help understand the best ways to prevent violence against women. It’s great – I get to help make the world a healthier, safer, and happier place and see the sea every day!
Does the patriarchy get you down? Like, do you ever just feel really annoyed by the way women get treated? Yes – pretty much every minute of every day. Those ‘gender glasses’ are just glued to my head so I can’t help but notice the inequality all around us. I recently saw a placard from the Women’s March that read, “If you aren’t horrified, you aren’t paying attention.” That’s pretty much how I feel. Apathy is one of my least favourite things so, for me, being horrified is what gives me the energy and drives me to help change the situation.
Who's your fave feminist icon? So many to choose from but I’d say bell hooks and Chandra Mohanty because reading their works for the first time when I was 18 changed my universe by enriching and nuancing the way I understood inequality. My parents also had a massive influence on my passion for gender equity, as, through example, they showed me that people’s abilities and strength have nothing to do with gender – they may not be feminist icons to the world, but they are to me.