I am a women’s reproductive health and rights specialist based in Melbourne, Australia, with expertise on women’s issues in South Asia acquired from my PhD research in Nepal.
I am also a sessional lecturer/unit chair in the School of Health and Social Development at Deakin University. I teach into the Master of Public Health, Master of Health Promotion, Master of Health and Human Services Management and the Bachelor of Public Health and Health Promotion, Bachelor of Nursing/Bachelor of Public Health and Health Promotion, and more. This has included managing a unit during #Covid19. I have also managed the day-to-day running of Deakin University’s theatre-based education programs, which use one-actor performances and a panel discussion to address the public health issues of violence against women and trans and gender diversity. One of the programs, ‘You the Man’, was a finalist in the VicHealth 2014 Victorian Health Promotion Awards category of building health through art.
Over the last three decades, I have worked in the arts, education and health sectors in Australia and Nepal. In my early career, I trained in child-care before embarking on a Master of Creative Arts Therapy, a Graduate Certificate of Business Management in Project Management, and a Doctor of Philosophy [PhD] in Public Health. I have since added global health certifications. I have also served on Committees of Management/Board of Governance since my early working life at 19.
My PhD research explored the reproductive health knowledge of young women who have been trafficked into the sex industry in Nepal. In Nepal, sex-trafficked women are highly marginalised and stigmatised due to their involvement in the sex industry (whether they have engaged in sex work or not). This stigma affects the women, their families and their village communities, including in an intergenerational context, which is a particularly problematic issue in South Asia (Blanchet 1996). At the time my research was undertaken, no qualitative studies had explored the reproductive health knowledge of trafficked women in Nepal or trafficked women anywhere in the world.
I undertook this study because I believed the stigma suffered by trafficked women meant they had specific reproductive health education and reproductive health support needs. In Nepal, the National Human Rights Commission [NHRC] (2014) has reported that 50000 women and girls are working in the entertainment industry which acts as a front for the sex industry. While no trafficking breakdown is available and it is not known how the data and statistics were collected, the NHRC says the young age of the women and girls – under 18 – is the indicator of trafficking. Girls as young as 8 or 9 have been found working in the sector (Frederick, Basnyat & Aguettant 2010). In a Terres des hommes report ‘Trafficking and exploitation in the entertainment and sex industries in Nepal: a handbook for decision makers’ it was noted: ‘although comparative research has not been conducted, informal observations indicate that violence against women and girls in Nepal’s entertainment industry exceeds that of similar entertainment industries in many parts of the world, including Thailand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, India and Western Europe’ (Frederick, Basnyat & Aguettant 2010, p. 49). for example, rape is accepted as a fact of life (Frederick, Basnyat & Aguettant 2010). In Nepal, the reproductive health needs of trafficked women and girls is very significant.
My research has made me passionate about the reproductive health and rights of marginalised women girls and women globally. I have presented on my research in Australia, Canada, Ireland, Myanmar, Nepal and The Netherlands. As reproductive health and sex-trafficking are culturally sensitive in Nepal, I designed a new research method for the cultural context and our vulnerable research participants. This is comprised of ethnographic and Participatory Action Research [PAR] methods; specifically participant observation, body mapping and photography. However, deviating from traditional forms of body mapping, clay was used as a three-dimensional medium in body mapping because it was discovered to be a culturally familiar material for the women and it was very natural for them to work in three-dimensions (though it was discovered to fast and carried risks of emotional release if not used by those with professional expertise.) You can read about the development of our clay body mapping method in Nepal here.