Opening ceremony & Day 1
This is certainly not the beginning of the work that we’re doing, we don’t want to say “yes, we have done our job” and pack up after this, we want to say that we are continually evolving in this space and looking at how we can improve and adapt to these challenges overtime so I hope everyone enjoys the week. However, it’s not just one week, it’s 52 weeks of the year that we focus on this. – Professor Beverly Webster who responded to my question on what she thinks of EDI week.
Speaking of EDI week, it was the first of its kind in Malaysia as the first ever student and staff collaboration event that was held for diversity of all kinds! Inclusivity week stretched across with cultural diversity on day one, mentall wellness on day two, gender equity on day 3, and gender and sexual diversity on day 4. For this event, most of the entirety of campus grounds was revamped to accommodate all the activities and workshops and there was a lot!
Day 1 – Cultural Diversity
On day 1, MUSA and MUISS team set up a booth promoting the unique backgrounds of all Monash students with a wall of sticky notes with quotes from students all across the globe and in different languages (p.s. even the Library got an addition to welcome EDI week!). With the collaboration of the library staff and the diversity and inclusion committee, a new collection of books celebrating the spirit of EDI week were showcased.
Of all the books showcased there, “The Gender Games” by Juno Dawson caught my interest the most, as it details how gender is predisposed to us by society from the minute we are born. It is quite a brave topic to be tackling and it shows how Monash is prepared to handle things moving on, in regards to diversity and inclusion.
Day 2 – Mental Health & Well-Being
The theme for day 2 was mental well-being and as such, the campus foyer paved the way for many booths which were set up by the mental health club. I was able to meet with the Vice President of the club Ann Marie, a psychology student, “This event is really important, whether you care about your mental health or not that educated on it yet, I still think [the event] is an accessible way to teach people mental well- being skills at home, and you don’t have to splurge just to go to therapy.”
I couldn’t have put it in better words than that, and to showcase some mental well- being skills students can do themselves various booths and workshops were held to teach students for free of course and some even had cool freebies (I am a freebie hoarder so it really tickled my itch).
Day 3 – Gender Equity
Day 3 began with the theme of gender equity. Apart from various activities that allowed students to immerse themselves in, there were also informative workshops like creating awareness of respect and gender equity and some mindful activities with none other than the head of mental health and well-being in Monash University Malaysia, Dr Mui Gee. Other than that, the crowd was quite sparse for this day unfortunately, so hopefully next EDI week the activities are revamped so students are engaged throughout the week!
Day 4 – The (Fabulous) Closing Ceremony
Day 4’s theme was diverse genders and sexualities and this day by far was the most packed, not only in terms of students that showed up but the sheer number of educational and fun activities that graced Monash grounds.
The day started off with the various LGBTQIA+ booths showcasing handmade work of people from these diverse demographics. Trinkets and baubles, artwork and clothing lines, whereas each item was made from love and care and were sold at a reasonable price for students– one could buy the market out and still be wanting more.
One of the booths showcased Juan Vilanueva’s art, a drag performer from KL. They had gorgeous earrings, bookmarks and original art pieces. I was able to get Juan’s two cents on EDI week and they said: “It’s good that Monash is doing this, being able to talk and engage and ask questions regarding this topic is important. We should make this (EDI week) a common thing; a norm. I hope soon, this is going to be just any other bazaar not just labeled as inclusivity because that’s what inclusivity is all about.” And I couldn’t agree more!
There was also a planetary talk featuring Dr Esther Ho, an openly out and LGBTQIA+ affirming individual where they opened up their life story and helped students gain some solace. What struck me the most was these words by Dr Esther Ho: “You are so valid, and you have every right to be here and be comfortable in this university and your time here should be safe for you to explore yourself and also to make connections.” I would be lying if I didn’t tear up during their session and I got the biggest hug I have gotten from an adult to date when I approached them for their two cents.
Speaking of connections, Ensemble set up a riveting showcase of performances on Thursday evening with LGBTQIA+ affirming artists and performers to really connect with the audience. The first line-up of performances was from the Monash dance studio, flourishing their moves in a beautiful and captivating rhythm hyping up the already growing crowd.
Solo performances from the likes of Jensen Chuah, Pang Guo Ling and Rohan Dias didn’t fail to captivate the audience as well. After Rohan’s heartwarming performance which made the audience literally swoon to him, I was able to sneak him away and get a few words from him, “Everyone did a pretty good job at promoting inclusivity and diversity throughout the week, even being able to showcase artwork by a drag performer (reference to Jaune) was pretty rad in my opinion. I think Monash should keep doing this because you want to create an environment where all types of students are accepted and the first step is actually doing, rather than putting fancy words on a poster so I applaud Monash for that.”
However, the event was still far from over and Ensemble still had a few trump cards to deal with. The first of which was Miss Ramya Gopal’s spoken poetry that pierced my soul. Her words were strong, honest and retold a story that a person could make a play out of. Her words “In the entirety of my life so far, Allah (God) has given me three precious heirlooms; each one passed down from one Tamil daughter to the next. The first is a complex relationship with the body, the second is a complex relationship with gender and sexuality, and the third is a complex relationship with desire.” It was truly a moving piece.
Following that, the evening hosts, two final year students, Kiki and Triny, lamented on how people were still chattering when Miss Gopal was performing, but they felt that it was better to not overpower her voice with theirs and what matters the most were the people who were listening– and I couldn’t agree more.
Shortly after Miss Gopal’s heartfelt spotlight, the audience was then greeted by DRAG PERFORMANCES. Yes, you heard it right, a drag performance on campus grounds! Miss Keisha, Nessy Candor and Acne Star “popped their fucking ass” to iconic songs and a stellar performace– truly the drag performances became the highlight of the entire week and captured the raw essence of EDI week by letting these artists express themselves unfiltered.
However, there was still one last performance and it was none other than the Indie band “Time machine”, serenading the crowd with a stellar performance with their new singles and an adrenaline inducing cover of “All I wanted” by Paramore
(which I definitely didn’t cry and scream to).
After the final performance, EDI week was officially over. EDI week has been the best event Monash has conducted (this year) with the joint effort of the students and staff. All their hard work was definitely appreciated by all, especially by the International students. Hope to see this event return next year!
Written by Fasihul Alam
Photos by Tsheten, Xinyi and Shawn