Identity and global health at #GIF16


Tasneem Chopra is an independent cross-cultural consultant who aims to empower the disadvantaged and minorities, and educate the wider community by delivering acclaimed workshops on diversity, identity and racism.


Global Ideas is thrilled to announce Tasneem as one of our keynote speakers at Global Ideas Forum in Melbourne, 2–4 September 2016. Tasneem will speak to the theme of gender and identity in health, and pose the question “How might we link identify, intersectionality and health?”. Named Woman of the Year at the 2013 Australian Muslim Achievement awards, in 2014 Tasneem commenced training with Heath Anthropology, to encourage and facilitate education, research, advocacy, and discussion between health professionals and social scientists.


Growing up in country Victoria as a self-described “brown pea in a white pod”, Tasneem came to understand she had a typical, middle class upbringing. In her teens Tasneem started to recognise the inequities that indigenous communities around her were facing, discovering that many teenagers she went to school with were members of the stolen generation. “As a teenager, the only word you have is unfair, and then it matures into justice, rage, fury, and finally my quest to change the system,” she explains.


An advocate for women, Tasneem believes that part of the conversation about health indicators and outcomes must address intersectionality; which she addresses in her TedX Talk, Don’t believe the hype: the war against stereotypes. Tasneem sees two of the main global issues as gender and education and believes that by increasing education opportunities for girls we will reduce their chances of poverty and improve their quality of life;


“Poverty and education for me are cornerstones in alleviating the bias that contributes towards dis-empowerment of women.”


Tasneem has spent her life dedicating her skills to changing the system, and believes that if minorities have agency, they will be empowered to challenge the system themselves. She believes that women are best placed to make decisions which affect their lives, “Meaningful change is achievable by changing the culture of seeing women as recipients of aid to actors of empowerment”. To generate this change in attitude, we need to talk directly to women and communities who require assistance, and apply a ‘bottom up’ approach, inclusive conversations are the first step in applying meaningful change – where women are spoken to, not spoken about.


“When we talk about having the conversation about health and identity, especially gender, we should be talking about changing the people having the conversation.”


Taking a user-centred design approach to health care will re-set the expectations of those looking for solutions in the sector, by asking communities what health needs they have, instead of expecting to dispense advice. The Western health framework quite often attempts to address community health issues without understanding the context or culture of the community, and without giving any account to the traditions and nuances of that group; “I am not the health professional, all I can rely on is the information that communities provide” says Tasneem. “You need to trust the knowledge of that community group, women in particular. We need to trust they know what is best for their community”. If we keep on repeating the same formula without change, our bureaucratic response will continue without change, when what is needed is a social response which considers identity as part of the solution.


“At the end of the day, communities are invested in the interest of their group much more than any funding body or NGO. They strive for the wellbeing of themselves to be addressed in a way that others can never understand.”


The concept of considering gender and identity in the context of global health has been present for some time, and the fact that we are still discussing it means it’s far from being resolved. “As a coloured woman I can see privilege and injustice in the face of what it does to people and I have the platform to do something about it,” says Tasneem. Encouraging systemic change is not something that will occur overnight, and considering gender and identity across conversations about health will place it squarely on the agenda for decision makers and key institutions.


See Tasneem Chopra and others discuss these important topics at #GIF2016 September 2–4 2016. Tickets are still available, including student discounts.


By Adelaide Fenwick, Communications Officer