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 Sumati Advani and Aayushi Khillan, community champions who believe in active participation, putting in the work, challenging bias and stereotypes, and using their lives to inspire other South Asian women.
Profile - Sumati Advani
“Small steps will lead to quantum leaps.”
Sumati Advani is a Community Advocate who is passionate about community service and has been actively involved in community projects for more than 25 years. She is the current President of Seva International Inc. (SEVA), a non-profit organisation committed to addressing the growing social welfare needs of the rapidly expanding Australian South Asian community in Sydney. She has worked on several community projects funded by the Department of Social Services, Local Councils and Multicultural NSW such as Empowering Community Champions, Asset Based Community Capacity Building and the development of a Joint Community Strategy to address Domestic Violence within the South Asian Community. Her Empowering Community Champions model was used by the Northern Beaches Council to engage with the Multicultural community in their LGA and has been adopted as a working model by several communities.
Sumati is also a founding member of the United Indian Associations of NSW (UIA) and President of UIA. She is the founding Chair of the UIA Women’s Steering Committee. She has also served as a White Ribbon Advocate and has held several information sessions on domestic violence and fundraisers to support the White Ribbon movement.
She believes to be a leader, one must be actively involved first-hand as a team member rather than a team leader and listen to the community.
“Getting runs on the board is essential – when you actually deliver, respect will follow,” says Sumati.
She encourages South Asian girls and women who aspire to be leaders to start early and participate in various events and opportunities around them and believes raising the profile of high achieving South Asian women will inspire others to achieve their potential.
“Active participation by women leaders, in general, is much needed to voice the issues that concern women at all levels of government,” she says.
This International Women’s Day, Sumati chooses to challenge gender stereotypes and bias – a woman can be anything she wants to be and can do anything she wants to.
“Be positive and know that you can achieve anything you want.”
She now nurtures two new organisations, Lean In Inc. and Haathi in the Room Inc. and strives to create and raise awareness towards specific issues faced by the migrant and South Asian community across Australia.
Profile - Aayushi Khillan
“The world is your oyster if you truly believe in your skills. Go make a difference in the community and remain uninhibited by society!”
Aayushi Khillan is a youth advocate, philanthropist and the founder of Body Buddies. Her work is a fusion of her love for education, youth and health. She is also a Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) board member and is a recipient of the renowned Metcalf Scholarship for Research at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.
Aayushi is currently studying a Bachelor of Biomedicine at the University of Melbourne and is the recipient of several awards, including the Multicultural Award for Excellence in Youth Leadership, Melbourne Youth Champion 2020 and 40 Under 40 Most Influential Australian Asians.
“When you put in the work because you truly believe in what you are doing and are inspired, people will admire that.”
This International Women’s Day, Aayushi chooses to challenge the gender and ethnic stereotypes existing in the community.
She also chooses to challenge the belief that women, especially of colour, are not strong enough or skilled enough to be influential changemakers.
“I think South Asian women need more guidance and support as often they lack the self-confidence to become a leader despite being more skilled than 90% of other leaders,” says Aayushi.
She believes South Asian girls and women need mentors, specifically other successful South Asian women, to guide them, support them and nurture them to become strong independent women.
“Make sure you always inspire other young South Asian women around you as we want the next generation to have even more strong women like us!”
Pranjali Sehgal is a writer, public servant and member of SAARI's Editorial Team.