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Book Announcement: "We are Making Changes", a hanbook for young Asian Women

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  • Shaji John K
    Book Announcement We are Making Changes a handbook for young Asian women We Are Making Changes is a handbook by and for young Asian women, compiled by Amrit
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 13, 2003
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      Book Announcement

      "We are Making Changes"
      a handbook for young Asian women

      We Are Making Changes is a handbook by and for young Asian women,
      compiled by Amrit Wilson with artwork and design by Kiran Patel. It
      is the first publication of Asian Women Unite! an umbrella
      organisation of Asian women's groups across Britain. In just
      twenty-two A4 pages it covers a whole range of issues which affect
      young Asian women here in Britain, including for example power
      relationships in the family, education, sexuality, self harm. It is
      written in a clear, concise and accessible form with a fictional
      character (Awara) who 'takes things apart a bit and puts them back
      together again'. Based mainly on the words of young Asian women aged
      between 14 and 18 with some additional facts, questions and ideas,
      the handbook is an invaluable source of information and a useful
      thinking tool.

      At a time when most young women's magazines are telling them how they
      should look and how they should behave, or how they can have the
      'best' wedding with the 'perfect' man, this handbook looks behind
      some of these ideas.

      Most important of all, the booklet opens up debate on areas which
      don't often get discussed. Subjects like the `control of sexuality'
      are introduced via the group discussion of 16 year olds in West
      London on pages 8 and 9:

      T: My mother is always saying cover your legs. She's alright when I
      am at home, but as soon as I walk out of the door she says, `wear
      something that you look good in.'

      P: It will only be a suggestion, it won't be blatant, it's kind of
      cold outside, maybe you should wear or why don't you iron that and
      wear something else instead.

      C: Then you feel embarrassed and say Ok I'll wear something else.'


      'In Southall you know the community, you know everyone. There 's
      loads of Asian factories where women get together and work. If they
      see someone's daughter just talking to a bloke, they think she is
      doing something wrong (especially if they are old fashioned) then
      they might bring it up even if it is not true and she might end up
      not even getting married . They think she's doing things behind her
      parents back - so thats not a good family'

      The handbook's style of production and writing sheds the 'fear of
      deep thinking' so widely exploited and promoted by the commercial,
      competitive and consumption-oriented culture today. For example the
      concept of Patriarchy is explained by showing how it affects everyday
      life. After the comment by R from Hounslow where she says: For ages
      women have been the second class citizen, whereas the man, the first
      citizen has always been in control, there is a box with a the
      following text: `Patriarchy: Rule of the father, male dominance, a
      system that discriminates against and oppresses women.' Awara's
      response to this is: Yes we all know what that means – when you
      aren't allowed to go out for an evening though you've made all the
      plans – and then your brother just goes – no questions asked. Or your
      parents or teachers say you! should take up nursing – because it's
      easier' – when you know you have it in you to be a doctor.

      With Awara as your guide you will engage with a variety of materials
      (all by Asian women) and reflect on the beautiful and original art
      and design work which also makes this booklet so unique. There are
      intense art works by young Asian women students which not only
      carefully illustrate the text but speak volumes in themselves. A
      painting on the war entitled `Unseen tragedy in the twin tower
      tragedy' by Sadia Chowdhury and portrays a woman who does not have a
      face. Below a young Asian woman from Dewsbury speaks of her
      experiences of taking on racism: My brother and I shared experiences,
      we would argue. I thought we should stand up to racists. I'd walk on
      my own past racist houses. The boys would walk the other way. On one
      occasion me, my brother and 3 others, were playing rounders and they
      started following and abusing me. I ! turned round and told them to
      fuck off, this is my street. I used to get mad for having to run
      away. I was never ashamed of my colour. I thought that they were
      nasty, horrible people. This Nigel, 6 or 7 years older than me, he
      started a campaign to terrorise me….He'd say "I am going to kill you
      with my dog!" One of our neighbours had a large Alsatian, it loved
      me. It would give us its paw because it was not allowed to lick us.
      One day I saw Nigel when I had this dog and said "look my dog is
      bigger than yours"

      In another section, entitled `East is not East' there is a
      discussion on how identity is defined and shaped … here you also find
      a painting of a young woman's face, with half her head covered in a
      dupatta and the other half uncovered. The whole face is framed with
      small drawings of animals, flags, places of worship, written script
      and above it is a statement by a young woman from Southall `Some
      people argue that you can't be Indian and British at the same time,
      either be one or the other, and with many of us we do sort of live in
      a westernised way. We'd rather wear track suits and jeans than salwar
      kamiz. Maybe it is the environment we've been brought up in. But in
      the end we are just us – we don't change if we dye our hair red,
      stuff like that parents get upset…..The inside may not have
      changed…But they only look at the outside. It is like judging a book
      by its cover. (L, 16 Southall)

      This is a handbook you will not only read but find yourself
      constantly dipping into for information, ideas, facts and figures. It
      has a list of all the main Asian women's groups in the country, it
      has phone numbers of helplines, it makes references to Asian women
      who have resisted in history, and it draws on so many different kinds
      of sources (from artwork, poetry, discussions and interviews with
      young Asian women, to research, drama, extracts from books and

      As well as the ease with which this booklet draws you into thinking
      deeply about the issues, it's full of hope and leaves you feeling
      empowered. This poem on the inside cover of the booklet by
      a young Asian women's group in Newham reflects the current running
      throughout the booklet.

      We make changes
      We stick up for ourselves
      We challenge the stereotype of Asian women
      We have a fantastic history
      We have rights and make choices
      We are powerful
      We are survivors
      We are mothers, sisters, lovers, daughters and friends
      We are Asian women
      We have a bright and brilliant future


      This handbook costs £1 for individuals and £3 for organisations and
      can be ordered from Londec on: 0207 424 9535 /
      293-299 Kentish Town Road, London NW5 2TJ
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