A Conversation with Tamara Richardson, Pace48

As part of our ongoing blog series, we will be sitting down and have conversations with a number of advocates in our local community. This week we speak to Tamara Richardson from PACE48.

What is your name, role and passion in life?

My name is Tamara Richardson and I am an appointed Student Associate of the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Chair in Intercultural and Interreligious Relations, Asia Pacific, as well as the founder of youth-led platform, PACE 48 (Promoting Access to Cultural Education, Asia Pacific). The platform sees young people across 36 Asia Pacific nations work every day in facilitating youth-led intercultural and cross-cultural relations, in order to build social cohesion and maintain regional corporation, peace and security in the Asia Pacific.
My greatest passion would be working in youth development, and exploring the role that preserving intangible culture, such as indigenous languages, plays in facilitating youth social development, particularly in the Pacific Islands. I believe this intersects with many important topics, including climate change, economic growth and stability, and social development more generally. Languages are such a crucial part of one’s identity. Based off of recommendations we made to Asia Pacific Heads of State and UNESCO last year, our young volunteers from the Pacific Islands developed our Indigenous Cultures Youth Network, which connects indigenous youth across the Pacific Islands. The network serves to both get young people in these communities exploring and interacting with their intangible culture, and by helping us to develop introductory indigenous language courses, this also helps in facilitating the preservation of these languages. We’re currently focused on three languages, Motu (Papua New Guinea), Maori (New Zealand) and Kuanua (Papua New Guinea). It is our hope that we can connect with more First Nations youth in Australia to expand our program here, as well as in Kiribati and the Cook Islands.

Why do you do what you do?

I do what I do because youth are an under-utilized source of innovation, entrepreneurship and have the capability of viewing and solving complex problems, that many experienced practitioners in all fields can’t. If we tapped into youth resources more, we’d see significant improvements in the public and private sectors. If we’re going to address regional issues, we need a regional approach, even if say climate change affects our young leaders in Afghanistan differently than it does to those young leaders in Kiribati, then we need to begin with better access to education across borders, so that young people can understand the perspectives and needs of each other better.
PACE 48 has its own youth-led, open-source, peer-reviewed Journal, INSONIYAT, which aims to share and connect youth ideas academically across the region, under the umbrellas of international development, cultural heritage, women’s and LGBT rights, international law and current affairs and poetry. I’m also a firm believer in connecting youth, which is why I always work to connect youth and youth-led NGOs (Non-governmental organisations), start-ups and social enterprises across the region.  If you’re in a discussion with me, chances are you’ll leave the discussion with a new friend from another country, which reinforces my person-to-person approach to cross-cultural relations.

Are you a feminist and what does feminism mean to you?

My work has a major focus on gender based rights and equality. I am passionate about ensuring that in every context, there is an equal balance between the genders, while focusing on the relevant contributors to gender inequality, including socio-economic status, access to education and so on. As a young woman leader, I've been able to ensure that PACE 48 has an almost even 50-50 gender split, and the two most senior members of PACE 48 are women. I understand that women's representation at the higher levels of relations and development are limited, and being in those positions provide many opportunities and responsibilities to act on gender equality and women's advancement in the fields and across the region.

However, working across the Asia Pacific, I understand that different cultures and communities define gender equality and inequality in different terms. For example, in India it moves away from the word feminism and towards gender equality, as many Indians believe the term is more inclusive. Meanwhile in Cambodia, women’s empowerment and development is emphasized through community development, and they prefer to use the terms women’s development and empowerment instead of feminism. As someone running a platform across the multitude of cultures in the Asia Pacific, I don’t want to limit my definition of gender equality, as I respect the evolving nature of gendered relations across these cultures, including my own.

What do you think is the most pressing social problem today (globally)?

Access to education. This is a consistent and primary need of all nations across the region, and each nation takes a different approach. While considering this social problem, we need to be conscious of variables which limit this access, whether it be socioeconomic status, geographical location, political stability, gender, climate change and environmental sustainability and threats to the peace and security of the nation. Growing up in a regional area, my dad was the number one champion in making me really appreciate the privilege I have been afforded by being an Australian citizen and having access to the types of education that I do. He’s always encouraged and reinforced to me that with an education also comes a social responsibility to use that education to help improve the social experience for others. I have seen the impact that the above variables, and their interconnectedness with culture has had on children and families, particularly in girls accessing primary and secondary education in many Asian countries. Yet, whenever we analyse the challenges, we must also focus on the benefits, for which I believe there are many. We’ve come a long way in terms of the development of communications platforms aiming to break down these accessibility barriers, and we should continue to explore how technology can be used in advancing the schooling experience for many children and young adults who wouldn’t necessarily be able to attend school.

If there was one resource you think everyone should view, what would it be?

I just finished reading Sex Slaves by Louise Brown (2000). It’s not very new, but it’s a vivid and well researched account of the trafficking of women in Asia, which is a topic that PACE 48 will be addressing with one of our international partners in South East Asia this year. If you’re interested in learning more about women’s development within the Asia Pacific region, I would highly recommend looking at the International Women’s Development Agency. They have some fantastic resources.