Meet the Aussie Women Teaming With Hello Sunshine to Give Unheard Female Voices a Platform
POPSUGAR Australia is dedicating the month of October to featuring the next generation of inspired thinkers and courageous individuals who are building and manifesting a brighter future — because the next gen is unstoppable. We will deliver personal essays from young Australians who are making a name for themselves, as well as inspiring thought pieces and interviews with rising talent across different industries throughout the month. Find all of our pieces here, and if there’s someone you think is missing, email our editor so we can share their story — [email protected].
Missing Perspectives is a global publication platform and not-for-profit gender equality initiative, launched in June earlier this year by founded by Phoebe Saintilan, with Hannah Diviney as Editor in Chief.
The mission of these two impressive young Australian women was to address the marginalisation of women and girls in news and media through the elevation of those voices, as pioneers of the lived experience
In the short four months since its launch, Missing Perspectives has collected a diverse range of articles written by young female journalists and human rights activists from 35 different countries, catching the attention of Reese Witherspoon‘s production company Hello Sunshine.
The two brands have now joined forces to mark International Day of the Girl (11 October 2021) with Hello Sunshine spotlighting the work of several leading Australian activists and Missing Perspectives contributors
across its social media platforms (and Reese shared too!).
POPSUGAR Australia had the chance to chat with Saintilan and Diviney about this exciting collaboration and what drove them to create a platform to amplify the voices of women across the world.
POPSUGAR Australia: What prompted you to ideate Missing Perspectives and then how did you go about bringing it to life and what was your mission statement?
Phoebe Saintilan: It really all started when I was doing some research while at work for a project I was working on at the time – and came across Luba Kassova’s report for the Gates Foundation called ‘The Missing Perspectives of Women in News.’ Luba’s report found that less than 1 per cent of news coverage contains a gender equality angle within it — and that women’s representation in the news has flatlined, if not reversed. As an avid consumer of news myself, it really got me thinking about how most protagonists in news stories are men and that young female voices are underrepresented in the news.
To tackle this problem, I decided to develop a platform called Missing Perspectives that would act as a repository of stories of young women around the world. I began reaching out to young women who were working on interesting projects in their communities and engaging in human rights activism — and from there it also spread by word of mouth. Stories came rolling in from countries ranging from Yemen, the Maldives and the Solomon Islands — to Poland and Syria. We now have thousands of readers from 100 countries, and contributors from nearly 40. All of our contributors are women.
Our mission continues to be to act as a platform dedicated to elevating the stories of young women that are often overlooked by mainstream media, and through this, tackle the underrepresentation of young women in news.
PSA: What stories, in particular, did you want to tell and how did source people to share these? What do you see as having been the barriers previously to these women having a voice?
PS: We really wanted to amplify the stories of young women engaging in human rights activism and working to advance gender equality in their own communities. We get in touch with these women through a combination of professional networks, cold emailing, and social media. Our belief is that any young woman can be a journalist — just by picking up a pen and observing what is happening around her. In this sense, we are really trying to democratise journalism – which tends to be really elite and excludes so many writers – particularly young women – from telling their stories.
Our focus is really on pioneering what we call ‘lived experience journalism.’ This refers to stories that are written by young women who have lived experience of the issues they are writing about – for instance, stories platform relating to issues faced by young women in refugee camps that are written by young women with lived experience of being a refugee – and living in those camps. Nearly 100 per cent of our articles are written by young women with lived experience. We found that this was really lacking in mainstream media.
Hannah Diviney: As a disabled woman, lived experience and visibility are always going to be super important to me, because it’s just been too easy and convenient for mainstream media to leave the voices of people who actually have experience and therefore a stake in all sorts of social issues, out of the conversation. We work really consciously to be an antidote to that systemic issue and as a result, we are (to our knowledge) the first in the world to set such a high standard for ‘lived experience journalism’.
PSA: How did the partnership with Hello Sunshine come to be? Was the goal always to partner with a global company that could amplify your message or did it come about organically?
HD: We always had the goal of entering into long-term partnerships with some of the heavyweights in the development space — different agencies of the UN etc. We knew that if we wanted to be taken seriously as a publication platform though, that we would need the backing of a company women and girls trust, are excited by and have a track record of responding to in a big way.
Hello Sunshine fit that bill perfectly as they share our goal of centring women’s voices and telling their stories in such authentic and powerful ways. I’ve been a long time admirer of the fact that Hello Sunshine achieves that goal across so many different mediums; books/television/film/podcasts/workshops for young creators. They’re really in tune with the fact that women and girls are multifaceted and that the goal of representation needs to be multifaceted too. It’s something we’re hoping to emulate as we grow.
PSA: What do your plans for the next 18 months look like for the site and with this partnership?
PS: We have so many plans that it is hard to keep track! We will begin our fundraising campaign in the next month or so, and will be holding workshops focused on working with young women to get their stories on our platform.
We are also launching a podcast that will involve Missing Perspectives contributors from completely different countries sitting down to discuss common issues such as climate change and period poverty — and how it impacts women in their own communities. So watch this space!
PSA: What has been the story that has affected you the most so far and why?
PS: Two come to mind. The first is Bushra Al-Fusail, who started a major women-led cycling campaign in Yemen. She called on women to ride their bikes in Yemen’s capital to protest against both the Saudi-led coalition’s blockage and also the marginalization of women in Yemen. She is one of the bravest and most courageous women I have ever encountered.
The second story would be Adenike Oladosu — a young Nigerian climate activist who is fighting for the restoration of the Lake Chad region and highlighting the impacts of climate change on women. We were super excited to have her featured as part of our partnership with the United Nations Youth Envoy.
HD: For me, there’s also two that come to mind. The first is the story shared by Douce Namwezi N’lbamba, a young woman from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who is a leading journalist and radio broadcaster in the region in spite of the limitations and threats that women in the Congo have to live with. She has even started her own radio station as a place for training other young girls to follow in her footsteps. I just think, being so driven by the dream of a better future, that you’re willing to risk everything is amazing.
The second is Jamia Wilson, an incredible trailblazer recommended to us by none other than the legendary Gloria Steinem! Jamia is now the vice president and executive editor of Random House, the publishing company in the US. She is also the former director of Feminist Press and a brilliantly outspoken advocate across so many platforms. As a writer and advocate myself, I found learning from Jamia really powerful and motivating in terms of what I might be able to achieve.
PSA: What does Aussie media need to do better when it comes to lifting the voices of underrepresented women?
HD: Oh my god, so many things! I think, just start with having us visible, to be honest. We’re not really represented in the people that you welcome into your homes each day and I think that needs to change.
Beyond that, we need to also be able to access positions of power and decision-making behind the scenes because clearly, the people who make the decisions at the moment don’t see the need for our representation. We’re less likely to be invited to speak as experts or to share stories of our lived experience and if you need proof of that, look no further than the ABC’s recent panel coverage of the impact of the Taliban returning to power on women, which featured four white men. We still have a long way to go but that’s why Missing Perspectives is here and we’re being so loud about it.