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Harleen Singh is fighting for gender equality and cultural diversity in Australian politics

Harleen Singh, a 16-year-old activist from Melbourne. Source: Supplied by Harleen Singh

Ms Singh turned her activism into action when she responded to a youth-led call for systemic change around the treatment of women in the Australian Parliament. Hailing from a Punjabi family, this Year 11 student is keen to create a safe space for women of colour in the political landscape.

Ms Singh was part of the group of female youth activists who formally handed over a set of recommendations, backed by more than 1,300 Australians, to address concerns over a culture of sexism and misogyny in Canberra to the prime minister's office in August.

As part of the group, the 16-year-old also participated in a conversation with the crossbench MPs about their commitment towards bringing a transformative change in the Parliament for the safety of young women.


Highlights:

  • Harleen is a youth activist campaigning for cultural and gender diversity in Australian politics
  • Ms Singh made a submission to the PM's office in response to concerns over a culture of misogyny and sexism in the Australian Parliament

Speaking to SBS Punjabi, Ms Singh said growing up, she witnessed a lot of political upheavals while watching the news on TV with her migrant parents, which piqued her interest in politics. 

"I was hugely inspired by Julia Gillard, the first and only female prime minister of Australia. 

"I wanted to have a career in politics, but as I grew older and witnessed the reality of women in politics, it infuriated me," she said. 

Youth activists are calling for change to ensure the workplace culture of politics is equal for women.
Youth activists are calling for change to ensure the workplace culture of politics is equal for women.
Supplied

Ms Singh said women are underrepresented in the Australian Parliament, and they hardly have any say in the decision-making process. 

We need a representation, and parliament doesn't represent diversity

Currently, Australia is ranked 50th worldwide, based on the women percentage in the lower house of Parliament.

Rising against systemic racism

Recalling her childhood, Ms Singh said she faced criticism for her skin colour, which had a devastating impact on her mental wellbeing. 

"Colourism and racism deeply affected my self-esteem while growing up, and I don't want the future generations to go through this.

"Children should be taught to love themselves despite darker or lighter complexion, and that's from where the confidence grows," said Ms Singh, who wants to be a humanitarian.

Ms Singh, who wants to champion the cause of creating a haven for women of colour, has recently developed a program aid that teaches ways to combat racist remarks and assist marginalised groups in raising their voice against any form of mistreatment.

In addition, Ms Singh also works with her local youth council in the City of Casey and a Youth Activist Series - 'Plan international Australia' to further her cause. 

Click on the player at the top of the page to listen to this interview with Harleen Singh in Punjabi.

 

SBS is committed to informing Australia's diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at https://www.sbs.com.au/language/coronavirus

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