Daizy Maan has created Australia’s first South Asian Women’s Wellness Space which she calls the 'Soul House'. It’s a space where women can feel welcomed and accepted "for who they are with no judgment or pressure."
- Daizy Maan has started a Soul House near Melbourne for South Asian women.
- Daizy and her friends have raised almost $20,000 through crowdfunding.
- Ms Maan says it is a space for women just to come here and relax and be amongst their sisterhood.
Around an hour's drive from Melbourne, the Soul House is a residence with three cottages amidst lush green gardens where women welcome others with open arms and warm smiles, which may quickly turn to loud laughter as soon the guests settle down.
Listen to how Daizy and Muskan describe the Soul House:
This is the brainchild of Daizy Maan who calls it ‘Soul House’ with love.
Ms Maan says it is Australia’s first South Asian Women’s Wellness Space.
“It’s a space for women, whether Indian or Pakistani or South Asian or immigrant to come and stay here just to have a sense of community, a sense of sisterhood and just relax,” explains Ms Maan.
Ms Maan was looking to move out of her small apartment and found this place with three cottages on one acre. Her first thought was to invite friends to live in the other two cottages and “during the lockdown, we can have our own little community.”
“then I thought my friends are quite privileged, so why don’t I do something which would have helped my younger self when I had left my difficult home environment and didn’t have stable accommodation” says Ms Maan who says she, too, has lived in an abusive environment."
She says for some women the home environment may not as loving or might be a little bit toxic.
“So, I felt creating a space for women just to come here and relax and be amongst their sisterhood. And that’s how space evolved.”
Daizy and her friends have raised almost $20,000 through crowdfunding. Some volunteers have also joined her to help with the project.
In our culture, there is a big part of tolerating abuse. My family has tolerated it. My grandmothers have tolerated it. And I thought somebody has to break the chain.
19 year old Muskan Jattana is one of the volunteer ambassadors who advocates for women’s empowerment in the Indian community. She met Daizy through Instagram, where her videos have garnered millions of views speaking about women’s empowerment in Punjabi, Hindi and English.
“We know a lot of people in the Indian community here, and it’s not uncommon for women to go through things. And, we are not telling them to leave your husbands. It’s fine, stay with your husbands. We just want you to have a place to go. Know, that it’s here,” elucidates Ms Jattana.
In its first few weeks, the Soul House has already hosted many women.
Ms Maan says hundreds of people have already enquired, mostly about donating.
“I think 20-25 women got in touch who are in need. And, about seven have come and stayed overnight here already in the last month. About 10-12 have come to visit the place and spend some time here.”
There are other organizations helping women. But, they aren’t culturally informed and lack support from women with a lived experience of difficult situations.
Daizy Maan says places like ‘Soul House’ are important because, despite all the campaigns about domestic violence, there aren't enough culturally aware spaces for them to come.
Emphasizing on being non-judgmental about their guests, Muskan and Daizy make it clear that they don’t advise women on their relationships and circumstances.
“If you don’t like a living, you can leave your husband and do this," explains Muskan. "When you go from a family you are very submissive, and you marry someone, you don’t marry him to leave. They don’t want to leave their husbands. They want to be loved.”
“We are in no place to tell someone what to do. But, we want them to know that we understand your culture; we understand how you grew up. We understand that you might not be able to make your decisions all the time, but you are growing, you are getting there. That is what kind this space is.”
Ms Maan shares a story of one of the guests, a woman from India who had abandoned her PhD to try and make her marriage work. She married at the age of 22 and was raised in Australia. She stayed at the ‘Soul House’ for a night and wrote an email to Daizy after a few days describing how the stay helped her.
I felt so energized with just spending one day with you at the Soul House.
She wrote, “I just want to let you know that I finally gathered the courage to speak to my parents about my situation and that I’m planning on getting a divorce. I thought they would be worried and upset, and I was afraid of raising this during a time that my dad is very sick. But, to my surprise, there were so supportive.”
Ms Maan says this message made her realise the importance of the space she has created.
If you need assistance, there are specialist family violence services that are available to help, including:
- 1800RESPECT — 1800 737 732
- safe steps Family Violence Response Centre — 1800 015 188
- InTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence
- W|Respect — 1800 542 847
- Men’s Referral Service — 1300 766 491
In an emergency, always call Police at Triple Zero (000). If English is not your first language, you can ask for an interpreter.