Gender inclusivity has taken on an increased importance over the years, with organisations raising efforts towards gender equality and women in leadership. Nevertheless, there is more that can be done. As we look beyond gender and examine the intersecting identities that women hold, how can we raise efforts to support and empower minority women further?
On 2 July 2020, our members tuned in to our webinar, Creating an Inclusive Society Together: In Conversation with Noor Mastura, for an open and candid discussion on some challenges minority women face in today’s society and how we can be better allies. "My definition of an inclusive society is not leaving anyone behind," says Noor, a community and social impact activist.
Noor shared her motivations for starting and being involved with initiatives such as Interfaith Youth Circle, Being Bravely Woman (an online safe community that tackles issues of female empowerment specific to the Muslim world), and Back2Basics (an organisation which works with families facing food insecurities). Her motivations, she said, came from personal experiences and wanting to speak up for the people she represented.
Noor also discussed ways we can tackle the challenges together by being more aware of how privilege plays out in different settings, as well as opening up such conversations in the workplace or classroom. She urged us to use our voices. As women, she said, we underestimate how powerful our voices are.
Here are some key points we took away from the session:
Being “privileged” or “marginalised” is non-binary. There are people who are privileged and people who are marginalised in any given context. We may hold multiple identities that may make us privileged or marginalised at the same time. This depends on the majority of people, context and space that we are in. Having privilege is out of our control and does not make you “bad”, but it is important to know how your privilege can impact other people.
Take the time to be more aware of your privilege. Privilege is not something one may realise they have, unless they have reflected and done inner work, or if someone points it out, which can make them defensive. One way of becoming aware of how privilege plays out is to observe if you are treated differently from someone else in the room.
Be an ally for those marginalised. The burden on making space comfortable should not be on the minority, but rather, extended by the person who holds more benefit and privilege. If you are in a position of privilege, ask yourself “how can I be a better ally?”. Start by first honestly confronting yourself: Consider how you were raised with, and what beliefs you learnt as you were raised. Ask your friends about their experiences and how they would like you to be a better ally.
Know what you want, and demand it for yourself. When someone or a group is being racially insensitive, speak up even if it is uncomfortable. A simple response such as asking a person to explain their offensive comment or ‘joke’ may subtly indicate that they have crossed a line and that their attempt to make light of the situation will not be condoned.In the long term, find an ally so that you have more voices to help you be heard.
Don’t underestimate how powerful our voices are. The first step to being aware of how privileged and marginalised identities are being played out is by having conversations. Be genuine and sincere in wanting to learn. Dare to speak about sensitive topics. Be the voice, use your privilege and take the opportunity to speak to the people around you.
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Noor for her open and honest sharing and hope that our attendees are as inspired as we are to be the driver of change in their communities! We would also like to commend our host for the evening, Adila Shahrin, who along with Rachel Ong from the YWLC Recruitment subcommittee helped to organise this event.