• GoActive - Inspire, Empower, Connect

    8m 46s

    Yashar is the project officer at ‘GoActive’, a health and fitness initiative run by the Lebanese Muslim Association (LMA) for girls and women. Yashar is driven to promote physical and social well-being programs, provide social and emotional learning to youth and ultimately provide an opportunity to all women to lead healthier lives, primarily through participation in sporting and health programs.

Graphical summary and transcript




Thank you. Hello. First of all, as I was gonna call in sick today, what the early complaints I had was excessive sweating, stuttering and forgetfulness. Some might call that stage fright. But before I begin, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we gather and pay my respects to the elders past, present and emerging.

Imagine always having a window, but no mirror.

In a world so diverse, in a country with many religions, in a state with many cultures, and in a community with many celebrated differences.

When I look out the window, I don't see myself represented.

I was born in Australia. I speak very broken Arabic and I've never been to Lebanon. Yet in Australia, I'm the Lebanese. And in Lebanon. I'm the Australian well, I'm the rich Australian because anyone who lives in Australia is automatically rich in the eyes of your relatives back in Lebanon.

So who am I? And why is representation so important? Representation is seeing yourself. Your experiences and your people's experiences in places and positions that matter most in this world.

It's critical to civic meaningful engagement. Representation inspires possibility. A path to follow ignites the fire in the belly of those watching through the window and can see themselves represented. It's her Haneen Zreika. The first Muslim woman to play AFLW at a national level. It's Najat Khoury. Who represented Australia in powerlifting and became Australia's strongest woman. It's a Assmaah Helal who led the fight against the hijab ban in FIFA and was successful. It's Amnak Hassan who established the first AFL team in Western Sydney and created opportunities for people like myself to play AFL. Australia's greatest game.

I maybe a little bit biased.

It's why GoActive was born.

GoActive in a sport and health initiative designed to cater for culturally and linguistically diverse girls and women across western Sydney. We provide opportunities for women to participate in sport, health and education programs that increase social cohesion, capacity building and health promotion.

With a 10 year track record, we continue to deliver champs, fitness classes, sports tournament, social and emotional learning programs and a summit bringing local and international women together. Our goal is to have Serena Williams attend our 2021 She summit. If you feel inspired today, then let's work together to grow future leaders and discover talented women in our community.

So, yeah, I've got a massive goal to bring Serena Williams. I mean, I don't know if that's going to happen, but that's what that's what's in my sights. One of the projects I'm working on is that All Girls Can campaign. The campaign is a digital storytelling series that showcases local girls and women participating in social, emotional and professional sports and recreation. I believe we need to increase the visibility of these women doing what they love and their achievements big or small should be celebrated and used to encourage other women to do the same. But it's not enough to just tell their stories online. And it's why we have the She summit happening next week for over 300 female students across schools where we have to in Tina Booth talk about her experience and represent women of color.

We have Samantha Bloom talk about her experience of being able bodied and now living with a disability. We last year's summit. We had Raha Moharrak, who was the first Saudi woman to climb Mount Everest and the six summits. Just imagine that a Saudi woman who before two years ago couldn't even drive. We had Western Sydney University evaluate the She summit. And one of the consistent statistics that came up regarding the success of the summit was the fact that these girls loved seeing and hearing Raha Moharrak, OK, talk about her experience, her struggle and how she overcame them to follow her dreams. They all saw themselves in her, and that's what made a difference. Representation is important to help remove the unconscious bias that fuels our everyday prejudice. Just over a month ago, I was at the Paralympics Gala 2020 Tokyo campaign raising raising money for the 2020 Tokyo campaign. And I was sitting at a table and two seats to the right of me was an older white woman who got introduced by a mutual friend, said, This is Yash. She plays AFL for the Auburn Giants and leads go active. After the lady had a few drinks. She wants to ask me some questions.

So where are you from? I was like, Oh, I'm from Punchbowl, which is near Bankstown. Such guys, are you? I know where that is. I live in Pasto. I tell you, two suburbs away. I'm like, yeah, cool. No worries. And I went back to eating my entre, which was bread and butter at that time. You say I'm not really a social person and I'm working on it, but I'm not really great at smalltalk.

So I was hoping it would end there. But it didn't.

So then she asks.

Well, then she says, So I'm not racist, but. I'm not racist, but. And I was like, Oh, man, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. I'm not ready for this. I quickly turn to the left when my friend was sitting because she's much more equipped on dealing with questions on I'm not racist, but. She's in a full blown conversation with a woman next to her having the time of her life. I was on my own. So I'm not racist. But. Do Muslim women actually play sport in that covering?

I was like, yeah, we do. I kick the football with my scarf on. I catch the football with my scarf on. I tackle girls with my scarf on. And yes, I do get high in that. But I guarantee you everyone else on the AFL field is just as hot. I mean, I didn't really say that, but that's what I wanted to say. I went on to how long winded conversation about how we've been playing sport since I could walk and that putting on the hijab didn't hinder my ability to play sport. You say if there was enough Muslim women represented in sport, I wouldn't be answering questions like this. It would be normal to see a Muslim woman in hijab playing sport. It wouldn't be an issue or a topic. To finish off that conversation, she says to me, it was so lovely to meet a Muslim and face to face and see that they're not all bad like you see on TV, I mean, at that point after hearing I'm not racist, but on my own, I wasn't surprised.

There needs to be more women like me in spaces like that and in spaces like this. But it's not just up to us Muslim women to be out there trying to undo these misconceptions. We must understand that representation is all our responsibility. We must filter through the messages that are so often reinforced by the media. Representation is vital. Being able to see these women and identify with these women provokes a sense of belief and belonging. I just forgot my line. One moment.

If we want more diverse women playing sport, we need to see more diverse women playing sport. If we want healthier communities, we need more representation. We need true understanding.

We need facilities that cater for all communities. Representation is a collective responsibility. Imagine always having a window, but no mirror.

Thank you.