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, we’re celebrating Prachi Rane and Jaya Manchikanti, who represent the diversity of women leaders in Australia, whether young or young at heart, and who both want South Asian women to know they are strong, and stronger together.
Profile - Prachi Rane
“Leadership comes in all shapes and forms.”
Prachi Rane is a part of the Emerging Leaders Program 2020 at the Victorian Government’s Department of Premier and Cabinet and YLAB. She represents the South Asian community and her role involves actively collaborating with other young people in researching issues that have affected young people due to COVID-19 and creating inclusive sustainable solutions.
Prachi is a member of SAARI's Youth Advisory Board, is the first female shortlisted Youth Mayor for Frankston City and was awarded the Australia Day Young Leader of the Year award (2019) by the Dandenong Council for her community work and passion for youth engagement. Prachi also won the Miss South Asia Australia title and Miss South Asia Australia – India title pageant in 2019 and has extensively volunteered for organisations such as World Vision, Mission Australia, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Special Olympics and WWF.
This International Women’s Day, Prachi chooses to challenge the mentality of gatekeeping opportunities and not celebrating other women’s achievements.
“We need to realise that we are strong individually but even stronger together.”
She believes the changes we, as a community, make today will affect how the next generation is treated and their outlook towards life.
“We all have a voice, a very powerful voice, and we are so fortunate to be in such a diverse society where we need to make these voices heard now more than ever,” says Prachi.
This stems from Prachi’s admiration of her grandmother as a leader, who “was born into the deep roots of patriarchy, with strict religious beliefs and practises” but stood behind Prachi and her mother “like a rock”.
“Learning what racism and discrimination were through experience, I wanted to spark a change and become that role model that another Prachi can look up to,” says the Emerging Leaders participant.
Prachi encourages South Asian women to make time to give back to the community and contribute to making a positive change and says, “you do not need to make drastic changes in your life to be an admirable leader, a little bit of time and kindness is enough”.
“I have lived my life with the belief that young people like us, have a lot to offer, therefore, from personal experience I want to say that it is important to take initiative and every opportunity that comes your way.”
She also believes that the fundamental step to supporting South Asian women within the community is to allow South Asian women to speak for themselves.
“Let them be the voice that represents them and not someone else to speak on their behalf.”
“This empowers the women to feel acknowledged, respected and accepted; the very steps in making any community an inclusive and meaningful space,” says Prachi.
You can connect with Prachi via LinkedIn.
Profile - Jaya Manchikanti
“Focus on the positives, not the negatives.”
Jaya Manchikanti migrated from India to Australia as a young girl with her parents and siblings in 1970, after which she moved to Melbourne in the early 1980s. She is currently the President of IndianCare, a culturally sensitive service for people of Indian origin in Victoria that offers support and facilitates their access to community services, such as family violence support. Jaya is also co-convenor of the Victorian International Community Development Network, and is passionate about equitable outcomes for all and is keen to assist people of Indian origin in Victoria.
Jaya has been an active member of the Telugu Association of Australia and was the co-founder of the Telugu Ladies Club which she helped to convene for 15 years. She is also a member of the Monash Lions Club and is qualified with a master’s degree in International and Community Development. She has been employed in the social services sector in Victoria for the last twenty years, working with a range of not-for-profit organisations and in State and Local governments. She is currently studying for a PhD at Victoria University, exploring the role of community development in progressing the Sustainable Development Goals.
Jaya encourages all South Asian women to get involved in what they’re passionate about and to do everything to the best of their abilities.
“That passion will rub off on others and, before you know it, you will be leading them along that journey,” says Jaya.
“Be guided by good values, your skills, a strong work ethic, intelligence, curiosity, generosity and passion - that will take you into places and positions you could not have imagined.”
Jaya admires her mother and the late Dr Maya Angelou as a women leader and says Dr Angelou inspires her as despite facing adversity, she lived her life positively and with eloquence.
She also believes that South Asian women need to be supported to pursue their dreams.
“Often they (South Asian women) cannot do so because they are burdened with domestic chores and caring responsibilities, much talent is squandered because of these responsibilities. How much better would it be if household chores, parenting and family responsibilities were shared so that women can engage in other activities that are of interest to them?”
This International Women’s Day, Jaya chooses to challenge her personal negativity, saying women often belittle themselves because of years of social conditioning where their voices are not heard and efforts not recognised.
“We need to turn this around by singing the Helen Reddy song ‘I am woman, I am strong’.”
You can connect with Jaya via LinkedIn. Read more about IndianCare's work supporting international students on SAARI.
Pranjali Sehgal is a writer, public servant and member of SAARI's Editorial Team.