We live in global world. And in Australia, like many other areas in the world, we live in a multicultural society. What does that mean for you? Do you embrace this cultural diversity?
Last weekend, I got to facilitate a weekend retreat with 25 young women from a wide range of cultural backgrounds - we had young women from Zambia, Somalia, South Africa, Iraq, Spain, Maldives, Malaysia, China, India and more. We shared stories, challenged our assumptions and learnt more about yourselves and others. Half the group were from the Muslim faith too.
I just wanted to share some of my learning journey from the weekend.
- There are more similarities than differences - even though, we dressed differently, had different favourite foods, prayed differently and had different life experiences - we had so much in common. As women, we shared similar goals for the future, similar desires for our friends and family and similar passions for the community. When you take away our different cultures and religions we are very similar people! A great example of this, one of the Muslim girls (who wears the head scarf) shared that when she was buying a bikini, the girl at the counter gave her a strange look and said “Do you wear bikinis?”. And she replied, “Of course! Maybe not out in front of everyone, but that she loves swimming.”
- Strive to understand, not judge - Our fears and assumptions can be driven by our lack of understanding about each other. If there is something you don’t like or fear about someone else, ask them about it. Really strive to understand what drives them. When we stand back and judge only, we don’t grow as people. Most people are really open about talking about the decisions they’ve made, so why not ask in a respectful way!
- Be willing to update your assumptions - We live in a world where change is inevitable. What our previous generations thought about cultural diversity is very different to the world we live in now. Be willing to challenge and update your assumptions. What are your assumptions about people from different cultures? Have you explored this? Have you challenged this? Do your assumptions represent the stereotypes or have you challenged yourself to really get to know people?
- Be a role model - Gandhi says “Be the change you want to see in the world”. I want to live in a world that respects each other, a world that values our differences as well as our similarities, a world where we look for the good in each other, a world that is compassionate and kind to each other. I am willing to be a role model - to stand again racism and intolerance and forge friendships, support and appreciation. Will you stand with me?
I can say with absolute confidence if you’ve never explored the cultural diversity in Australia - you are missing out! Why not volunteer at an organisation that works with people from different cultures and religions? Meet new people and make new friends with people from different cultures and religions - whether it’s the next door neighbour, a new colleague at work or a new volunteer buddy. Trust me, the richness is definitely in the diversity!
PS - Want somewhere to start...check out the resources below.
* Check out the wonderful work of the Muslim Women's Support Centre, who I work with to faciltiate the Young Women's Leadership Program.
* Check out the video series, Go Back to Where They Came From. Powerful!
* Check out Janine Ripper's blogging series, The Beauty of Difference. (She was a participant of the 2010 Young Women's Leadership Program)
* Check out the Ebook that the 2010 Young Women's Leadership program participants wrote called Journey to Leadership - including all their biographies.