60 seconds with Mmaskepe Sejoe

Mmaskepe BW

Human rights advocate, bibliophile and early morning thinker

What are you enjoying doing at the moment?
Reading and just learning to take life easy.

What is the best thing that happened to you today?
I had coffee with a friend I have not seen for a while because she has been managing the difficulties of raising a daughter who’s grappling with being a ‘good’ Muslim and a ‘good’ Australian in an increasingly hostile environment.

If you were a super-heroine, what powers would you like to have?
Make people see each individual and their potential as part of the greater human family- not their clothes or race, or whether they’re fat, skinny etc. We are all born naked aren’t we?

If you had a magic wand, what would you use it for?
Bestow a SMILE on every sad face out there.

What talent would you most like to possess?
I would love to know how to represent my thoughts with colours, so that I would say less and just express more.

If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
Work in Textiles.

What is the best part of your day?
Early morning just before sunrise, I get to think clearly.

What do you most value in your friends?
Acceptance and love.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone new to Australia, what would it be?
Do not listen to anybody telling you that Australians are ‘easy going’, they just don’t tell you the parameters of the game and it can be hard going figuring them out.

What’s your favourite word in the English language?
“Pardon?”  It took me a long time to understand colloquial English, so I was forever trying to understand how to use that expression properly instead of ‘excuse me?’  It took me 15 years to figure out.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a woman from an immigrant or refugee background?
I come from a country where you meet people, shake hands, and acknowledge them next time. I later found out that people here sometimes make introductions to be ‘polite’ not to make a human and ongoing connection; this was very hard to understand.

Can you describe a time when you felt discriminated against as a woman or as someone with an immigrant or refugee background?
Where do I start?  I was introduced to someone and they asked me if it was okay to call me a ‘negro’.  I’ve also been told on numerous occasions how ‘sad’ it is that where I come from they mutilate our genitals.  At one of the tertiary Institutions I taught at, I was told I must be very happy that there is so much food in Australia because I don’t have to worry about famines anymore.

For you, what’s the best thing about being a woman from an immigrant/refugee background?
Identity is very important to me and being accepted for me, not my job, or race, but for the essence of my being.  This has made me very happy and assured me that connections can be made when we strip off the artificial social constructions of race or whether one arrived on a plane or boat.

Describe a time when you felt that being an immigrant or refugee woman was an advantage?
I have great knowledge and awareness of African, European and post-colonial history, economics and geography, which I wouldn’t have otherwise.  Being from a dominant culture can often limit your outlook in life. Being an immigrant you are aware there are always options, even if they involve risks.

Tell me about an amazing woman you know.
My mother was such an amazing woman, she was married young, had 10 children of her own, but raised many more. Her commitment to girls’ education saw her nine daughters being educated, as well as absolute commitment to educating other people’s children who were not in a position to afford fees during the colonial era.

Name a book or film that changed your life.
There are many, but one that comes to mind is Pascal Mercier’s “Night Train to Lisbon”

What are you reading right now?
‘Traitor’ by Stephen Daisley

What is your favourite possession?
Nothing really as long as I can get a book to read I’m happy.  Reading breathes life into me, I can’t imagine life without books.

What does multiculturalism mean to you?
Respect and Acceptance not TOLERANCE!

If you could convince the world of one thing, what would it be?
To look for common ground not difference, and to run a class action against gun manufactures and all war machines.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
Essential and basic needs like health and education should not be profited from.

If you could meet the Prime Minister tomorrow, what would like to tell him?
Racism is real and destroys lives.