The Role of Muslim Women in Australian Society
Ayda Succarie is a PhD candidate at the University of Western Sydney. Her doctoral research focuses on the professional identity of board members and governance in Islamic schools in NSW. She has completed a Master of Business Administration and a Graduate Certificate in Research Studies at the University of Western Sydney. She has also completed a Bachelor of Arts (Humanities) at Griffith University in Brisbane. She is currently employed as a casual academic and research assistant at the University of Western Sydney. She has worked in business management and administration for Islamic schools in NSW, in addition to a number of not-for-profit organisations throughout her career.
Throughout the last decade there has been much research conducted on the status of Muslim women and their contribution to Australian society. This research largely focuses on how Muslim women deal with gender inequalities, their reasons for wearing the veil and their position in a secular Australian workforce. However, how does this contribute to the understanding a Muslim woman’s role? The outcome of this research has acknowledged limitations in addressing these roles within a more complex framework. As a Muslim business woman, a lecturer and a mother of four children, who has worked in Islamic schools, the not-for-profit sector for 12 years and recently in University, I will aim to provide a better understanding of the role of Muslim women in Australian society.
Applying reflection to the process of defining my role as a professional and a mother assists me to recognise important aspects that have not been considered in this area of investigation. To me a Muslim woman is influenced by many positive factors, such as her rights as a woman in Islam, as well as negative factors, such as gender influences driven by the traditions of cultural imbalances. These factors trigger the professional development of these women and impact on their role in the domestic sphere. Using a reflective approach, I will discuss a set of criteria that I believe will shed light on Muslim women's roles in society.
Sonia Surayya Ahmad has degrees in Law, Jurisprudence, Education and Islamic Studies. She started her career as the first Muslim woman barrister in Australia. She was later employed by the Department of Education as a Project Manager for the Skilled Migrant Placement Program and went on to work as a Community Centre Manager in the St George area. Her entrepreneurial endeavours saw the establishment of the Australian Cultural Centre in Pakistan which served as an educational employment agency for Australians working in Pakistan and facilitated the provision of English language classes to local companies and the Pakistan Army. She worked as a Principal of an American International School while in Pakistan and on her return to Australia has continued her work in the education sector as the Owner/Director of Sherpa Kids Blacktown, which provides before and after school care services to the Muslim school community in Australia. Currently, Sonia is a director of the Muslim Kindness Movement Australia and is working with industry and business to develop a coherent umbrella for the provision of services and the management of projects, as well as the promotion of community harmony.
As Muslim women in a secular society, such as Australia, we interact with men outside our home in various encounters associated with work and study. However, it is the gaze of our community of Muslim peers that provides the benchmark for what is deemed acceptable public behaviour and what is not. It is this community that sets the standards for our behaviour and judges us. The diversity of our Muslim community necessarily means that the benchmarks will be different for different women. Success lies in negotiating our activities around those benchmarks. Success lies also in maintaining the division between public and private within our lives. As Muslim women it is imperative that we receive responsible career counselling so that we are prepared for the challenges that we will undoubtedly face whether we choose a career in the home or outside of it.