We, at The SAARI Collective, wish to acknowledge and celebrate International Women’s Day all week. We invite you to join us in recognising and celebrating the efforts, achievements and immense contributions of South Asian women across Australia.
Join us as we profile some resilient and inspiring South Asian women over the coming days. Today, in our final day of our series, we’re celebrating Dilpreet Kaur Taggar, an award-winning journalist, media founder, and activist for equality and intersectional identities from an anti-caste, feminist and non-binary lens, and Molina Swarup Asthana, a lawyer, alliance builder, gender rights advocate and champion for women in sport.
Profile - Dilpreet Kaur Taggar
“We are all unequal until no one is.”
Dilpreet Kaur Taggar is an independent journalist and the founder of South Asian Today, Australia’s first media organisation for South Asian women and non-binary folks. At the age of 25, she launched South Asian Today and continues to shape and indulge in
anti-caste, progressive and feminist media diverse ways of storytelling. Born and raised in India, her work celebrates diversity and revolves around racial, gender and political affairs.
In 2018, Dilpreet won the national Ossie award for her project, ‘Brown & Happy’, a podcast on skin-whitening products. In 2019, her first television show in Australia, “Half Hour’ won the Antenna awards for ‘Outstanding Journalism in a Program’. She is nominated for ‘Young Professional of the Year’ and ‘Businesswoman of the Year awards’ at IABCA 2021.
Dilpreet praises her mother as a resolute leader and says in addition to being an incredible teacher, her mother always made sure Dilpreet had access to quality education growing up.
“Despite exercising a rather humble lifestyle, it was my mother who broke
the intergenerational trauma and birthed me new and there isn’t a leader in the world better than that.
“(She) helped me navigate a world where I would have to destroy the male gaze, patriarchal norms, and assumptions based on my gender on an everyday basis.”
This year, Dilpreet chooses to challenge upper caste and class South Asians and urges them to “step down and stop gatekeeping spaces and platforms for the diaspora”.
“Any form of leadership that isn’t intersectional and inclusive is not leadership,” she says.
She believes the South Asian community is capable of building their own ways and thinks it is important we, as a community, start investing in our community and uplift each other as we “step into a world where the post-colonial hangover is finally being addressed”.
Dilpreet’s work as a journalist is driven by her purpose of creating an inclusive space for women from diverse backgrounds and cultures.
“My work mainly focuses on the South Asian community and so it is crucial that I break away from the Indian hegemony and build a platform where culturally and linguistically South Asian women and non-binary folks can publish their stories, indulge in podcasts and videos and also connect with other artists to explore identity, representation and politics,” she says.
She encourages South Asian girls and women to stop chasing or moulding themselves “in certain shapes and forms and be palatable for the male gaze or the white gaze to shine” and states that to be “a lie”.
She also invites South Asian women to come together and form an inclusive, supportive community.
“Let’s check that jealousy and competition we feel towards each other and sit with ourselves to question how it is a deeply ingrained form of patriarchy that prevents us from supporting each other.”
True to her motive of creating an inclusive space, Dilpreet asks everyone to acknowledge their privilege and understand whether their works are intersectional for Dalit, Bahujan, Adivasi and Tran South Asians.
“I don’t have to lead, I, in fact, have to make sure I preach what I teach,” says Dilpreet.
A vocal and fierce advocate for rights, she believes the government of Australia must ensure grants and systems of support for South Asian migrants and international students – especially women.
“We are more than garam masala and it is about time we are taken seriously with monetary and community investments.”
“This is undoubtedly our time,” says Dilpreet.
Profile - Molina Swarup Asthana
“Don’t wait for someone else to lead the path, be the first one to forge it.”
Molina Swarup Asthana is an experienced commercial lawyer who continues to work tirelessly on creating a link between the Indian and Australian legal communities. She has worked at some Australian top tier firms as well as with the Victorian government as their Principal Solicitor and is currently the Vice President for 2021 of the Law Institute of Victoria. She is the first Indian born member on the board. She is also on the Board of the Graduate House of the University of Melbourne as well as the Good Shepherd Aus NZ and is the President of the International Law Association Victorian Chapter.
But that’s not all. Molina is also the Vice President of the Asian Australian Lawyer's Association, Victorian Convener of the Asian Australian Alliance and sits on the board of a few community organisations working on diverse issues facing the Asian Community. She is a regular speaker on SBS Hindi radio and aims to spread awareness by discussing legal issues concerning Indians residing in Australia.
She has received awards from multiple organisations for her work as a solicitor. Some include the Victorian Multicultural Award for Excellence for Service Delivery Community Service in 2014 and 2016, the Spirit of Sport Award at the India Australia Business and Community Awards 2017.
Molina is an avid believer that sports can be a major source of empowerment for women and is a director on the board of Gymnastics Victoria. She also founded Multicultural Women in Sport, a non-profit organisation that aims to increase the participation of multicultural women in sports.
“I believe sports increases their (women’s) confidence, self-esteem and enables them to develop a spirit of camaraderie,” said Molina.
This International Women’s Day, she encourages South Asian girls and women to challenge the status quo and to own their diversity.
“To lead you have to challenge."
“We need to question current practices if they are not favourable towards women, and women of colour in particular,” Molina says.
Molina greatly admires Jacinta Arden as a leader and believes her leadership gives precedence to empathy, compassion and strong determination over economic gains.
“If you want to give back to the community, if you want to be a person that is admired, you have to do whatever you do with your heart and a genuine belief that you can make a difference.”
You can connect with Molina via LinkedIn.
Pranjali Sehgal is a writer, public servant and member of SAARI's Editorial Team.