Interview with Lawyer Molina Asthana – Let’s talk about sports, women, empowerment and Australia #womenempowerment

Spring is the time of plans and projects – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

So, starting with this piece of article with the excerpt from my random read. “Taoism” the Chinese philosophy of toe which denotes the principle that is the source, pattern and substance of everything that exist. Taoism in the sense is a teaching about the various disciplines for achieving “perfection” by becoming one with the unplanned rhythms of the universe called “the way”, the action without intention, naturalness, simplicity, and spontaneity and the three Treasures compassion, frugality and humility.

So it’s all about joining an online group of women in sports and Molina Asthana welcomed me with her kind words.  It was her welcome message on that group that triggered into a conversation about our interest in sports and the kind of work women are doing in sports.  Talking about t Molina Asthana, She is a Principal Lawyer at Swarup Asthana Lawyers and Business Advisors which is based in Australia and Founder of “Multicultral Women in Sports” which she started 2 years ago to get women from different backgrounds involved in sports as a means of empowerment, to give them a sense of belonging and to overcome all the issues  and through this contribution for sports she was appointed as a commissioner of the Australian rules of football under this position she regulates the sport in south Australian suburbs region of Victoria. She is doing a lot of advocacy in the area of bringing women involved in different area of sports like cricket, soccer, football and table tennis. In Australian rules football she is helping to get more women in the program and to structure some programs that they roll out in the community including participation of mothers with their kids. Molina also works for Champions League Cricket with the south Asian community and for local clubs to develop the sport at grassroots level. The main point of emphasis through all her work is on to create an atmosphere for women those  come from diverse backgrounds. For example ; creating separate spaces for women who don’t want to play around men, let them play with hijabs and longer clothing, have women facilitator, umpires, coaches and to make club more welcoming of women and people from various backgrounds by taking care of basic needs like food, most of the south Asians do not prefer pork and beef so they provide alternative of it.

Molina is an Indian origin woman who worked for 11 years as a principal solicitor with the Victorian Government where she was looking after major projects for the state of Victoria. She had worked with two top law firms in Australia and now 4 months ago she has started her own law firm Swarup Asthana Lawyers and Business Advisors.

Here are the excerpts of the interview with Molina Asthana about her journey and kind of work she is doing in the field of sports 

How was your initial journey in career and what kind of challenges you have faced earlier in your career?

Molina – If you want to achieve something then you have to continuously work and also you need to believe in yourself, you need to be resilient because moving to a foreign country and starting from scratch is not easy, you do face racism as well, it’s unconscious biased behavior that we face as migrants, so you have to push yourself forward and just keep on going. Be passionate about whatever you do. I was a lawyer in India and my whole family was in legal profession, so law was in my blood. But when I came here, my passion into sports developed and it was also quite fulfilling as I was working in an area where nobody was working in and making a difference as well, helping people and creating a change and that’s what pushes me on, encouraging me to succeed and I also tell people and women here that be confident in your own culture because you come from a different background and have your own values, it’s important to imbibe values from Australian people but also important to retain your own values as well, and be proud of who you are as when you are not proud of who you are and where you come from, other people will be like she isn’t even proud of her own culture, how would she adapt to ours. Be proud of your own Heritage.

 

Do you feel there is a difference in working in India as compared to working in Australia?

Molina – In terms of the glass ceiling, there is. In India it is much more. A lot of professions are still male dominated but in Australia it is better but I wouldn’t say perfect. Even here a lot of work is being done to increase the number of women working in certain areas such as law, sports, STEM’s. We have more opportunities here, a lot of workplaces are flexible in timings. But when you go for work life balance then you wouldn’t achieve the same things at a pace a man does which is the same case in India. In India its a bit conservative for women, if you wear skirts then people judge you, and you have to look serious to be taken seriously whereas its not the case here, I don’t have to look constantly as an old or a serious person to be taken seriously. Nobody’s gonna change on the basis of things you wear or the way you look and things like that. People are not so judgmental.

 

What do you think is the main hurdle when a woman starts to play or work in sports, as there is a difference between working for sports and playing as a sportsperson.

Molina – At the moment in Australia, there is a bug wave to push women into sports and I think that coming into India as well. A lot of work is being done in that space. A lot of sporting clubs are trying to get more women into their programmes, trying to get them more involved. There is also a wide wage disparity like in Australian rule football for men and women, the men get paid millions of dollars and the women get paid only 8k or 20k dollars. The barriers are there and especially for multicultural women are harder as they don’t understand all that. Some are economically weak as well as they have come into a new country, they don’t have enough money to survive let alone play. The same problem exists everywhere, there is less women playing and there is less women in governance position. I am going to work on a project with one of the university here to have programmes for women for leadership in sports, especially for multicultural women. Then I am going to take these programmes in India as well using the Australian expertise.The problem is the same on and off the field. Like growing up in India, we never really played any sports, we barely even watched sports. But things are slowly changing like woman like yourself are doing blogs on it which was unheard of when I left India. So things are changing but still a lot of work needs to be done.

 

You are an ambassador of Cricket Australia, so what is your role in this position ?

Molina – The role basically involves trying to get more people to play this sport, to encourage more people of multi- cultural background to play the sport or to help cricket Australia with some of the initiatives that they run. You can also create your own initiatives and tell them this is what I want to do and they will help you, some of the thing I did was like in Diwali or Holi, we set up workshops for kids to try out the game. Some of the clubs from BBL came and they had their own stalls and send the mess out to the community. In the last few years , a initiative is run by Melbourne Renegades to organize a south Asian champions league which is a cricket tournament between 6 South Asian countries. The winner among themselves get a chance to play before one of the BBL games and they create a winning team that plays against the Sydney team. Sometimes they pick-up talent from these teams.

 

What kind of impact do you think you want to make through your actions ?

Molina – What I want to see is change happening, I want to see women thinking about sports as men do, it shouldn’t be something I should specifically push for. When I become redundant will be the day I feel I would become successful and I need to push more. Obviously there are areas that I can still work on. I am hoping I see a lot of women participating in sports in future and especially women of diverse background here. In India, I would like to see women be able to talk about sports as men do, I just dont want sports to be an industry that is just dominated by men. I want to claim their space in sports basically.

 

 

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