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
DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS
What did you want to be when you were a kid? I used to love watching shows set in exotic places like Africa or any shows with animals really, especially David Attenborough documentaries and I was passionate about horses so I initially wanted to be a vet or have a farm working with horses. I always loved playing sport too so I’m sure at some stage I thought I would be a pro netballer.
What happened in-between? I needed some adventure so saved up and went backpacking when I was 19 and this experience changed my life. I remember my first trip, crossing the border from the States into Mexico and being confronted by the huge contrast in living conditions and the absolute poverty that many were living in. I was so shocked by this (you have to remember this was well before the internet so we did not see the images or have access to the information that we do now.) It was a different world and it just seemed so unjust to me then and still does now how a line can divide. I went on to study Business and Accounting which enabled me to work overseas and led me to my positions within cultural arts organisations, international development with NGO’s, supporting local women’s organisations in the Pacific and Asia and now The Equality Institute. These organisations have aligned closely with my values and I feel that the work being done is making a real difference.
What are you doing now? Do you like that? I’ve just returned from a 4 month trip and am working here with this wonderful team, supporting the organisation as it continues to expand and develop. It’s exciting to be involved in this growth stage, helping to build the organisations systems and structures for sustainability. The flexible working conditions have allowed me to work from home as needed to look after my dog who has recently gone blind so I am very grateful that I am able to do that.
Does the patriarchy get you down? Like, do you ever just feel really annoyed by the way women get treated? I see double standards and inequalities all of the time, particularly when travelling in developing countries but also just in everyday life with how women are treated and restricted. I feel that we can all influence this though in our conversations with friends and family, by encouraging each other and continuing to push the boundaries where we see injustice in all levels of society. The feminist movement has made huge strides recently and my hope is that this continues to gain momentum and create lasting change.
Who's your fave feminist icon? I don’t know if you would call them feminist icons but Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall were very inspirational to me, doing what no women had done before in their field. Nelson Mandela really shaped my consciousness in the fight for human rights and equality for all. On a more personal level I had quite strong women around me growing up and my Nan played a big part in that, always speaking her mind, being independent and encouraging. I don’t recall ever being told that I couldn’t do something because I was a girl but if I had been it probably would have made me want to do it even more!
DIRECTOR, NYC OFFICE, LEAD ON HUMANITARIAN PORTFOLIO
What did you want to be when you were a kid? My mom provided physical therapy services in my small hometown, and everywhere I went, I ran into grateful people she had helped. That made me want to help people too. She was also a trailblazer. She had to work hard in a very male dominated work environment, which would have been very difficult in this conservative community in those days and may have lost her some friends and colleagues.
What happened in-between? Playing sports was one of the first ways that I unknowingly started to push against oppressive norms. I was a pretty fierce young girl in a patriarchal household, and sports provided me with a channel for my anger and a platform for growing my confidence. After college I joined Peace Corps and was sent to a rural village in Burkina Faso, West Africa for a couple of years. In the back of my mind I had probably always wanted to work on violence against women and girls, but when I moved to Burkina it all came into focus.
What are you doing now? Do you like that? After 10 years at UNICEF headquarters working on violence against women and girls, my exciting new challenge is to get the Equality Institute’s New York Office up and running. I’m thrilled to work in an organisation that is unapologetically feminist and taking a creative, positive and empowering approach.
Does the patriarchy get you down? Like, do you ever just feel really annoyed by the way women get treated? I feel like I’m constantly having to dig my way out of the patriarchy. But I believe that the patriarchy is now shaking in a way that it never has before. Thanks to all the feminist warriors before me, and those who will come. We are going to make it crumble!
Who's your fave feminist icon? I could listen to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speak all day long. She’s a novelist but she might be most famous for her TED talk that became a book, We Should All Be Feminists. She unpacks frustrating issues with such humor and grace.
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? 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.