Lessons learnt through failure are lessons learnt forever

Failure as a feminist isn’t a new thing. It’s referenced in popular books and tv shows and if you look up ‘failure’ and ‘feminist’ in your favourite search engine you will get millions of results.

For that reason, when I reflect on my journey towards becoming a feminist and continuing to learn about feminism there is no one person or group of people I can point to and say that they’re the reason I am so inspired to push for intersectional feminism.

I grew up in a relatively conservative household with generic gender roles and an Anglican school with Christian values. I watched a lot of Hindi cinema which perpetuated traditional cultural thinking around gender at the time.

What drew me to feminism and gender-based policy was a series of events in my life. The main one being the murder of someone in my community. I didn’t know her well, but the ripple effects of that murder did and still do impact the decisions I make every day and push me to be a better feminist.

This is learning through failure.

It is the failure of the perpetrator, yes, but it’s also a failure within our systems and structures, its failure of society and culture. It is because of this failure in preventing this murder that I can identify the impacts of patriarchal structures on society and individual behaviour, I am mindful of inclusivity and make gains to try and support diversity with whatever influence I can.  

I think that a lot of people who experience the spectrum of violence due to facets of our identities (such as gender, race, sexuality, ability, socioeconomic status, and job type) and the intersections of these can attest to events that made them at the very least stop and reflect.

Humans and their feminism are inherently flawed. No one can be a perfect feminist and as we find more unique and descriptive ways of communicating our lived experiences in an imperfect world to achieve equity we need to continue to evolve as feminists and as allies.

I don’t know that I would be as driven a volunteer or advocate if I hadn’t been on the periphery of this incident. I continue to make mistakes and learn from them as a feminist and ally as I try to find the balance between creating a safe space for people to be who they are and learning how to best engage with them. What happened shouldn’t have happened, and to prevent violence we must continue to have the resilience to push through the smaller embarrassments when learning so that we as a society can progress and teach one another.

During my journey, I have worked with several fantastic Australian organisations doing good work in their communities including YWCA Australia, MoneyGirl, SisterWorks, Raise Our Voices Australia, the Australian South Asian Centre and GG’s Flowers. The people who work for these organisations are passionate and intelligent and have ambitious intersectional feminist agendas. They also have resources and programs to help people engage at the intersection in a safe and meaningful way. Learn from these failures and let them be fuel to make a meaningful impact and drive for change.

Aditi Malhotra is passionate about meaningful, equitable and dignified access to healthcare and social services. Most recently, Aditi championed the need for working collaboratively using an intersectional lens through her role as Chair of the Women’s Network at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. She is also one of YWCA Australia’s 2022 Board Trainees.

YWCA Australia wishes to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the lands on which we work, live and play and pay our respects to Elders past and present. We recognise First Nations people as the custodians of the lands, seas and skies, with more than 60,000 years of wisdom, connection and relationship in caring for Country.

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