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  • Our Words Matter

Dr Anne-Marie Tupuola-Plunkett talks about being authentic & staying true to oneself

March 8th is International Women's Day #IWD2020, a day we celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, while also marking a call to action for accelerating gender equality. This year, after listening to Pat Mitchell's podcast "dangerous times call for dangerous woman" [click here to listen], Our Words Matter talked to a number of women who might call themselves 'dangerous' - women who embrace risk for the sake of advancing good, even if it's dangerous.

Each of us have our own way of describing what being a dangerous woman means. What does it mean to you?

Being a dangerous woman is daring to be authentic and staying true to oneself, regardless.

In what way would you describe yourself as a dangerous woman?

I would not normally describe myself as a ‘dangerous woman’. However, within the context used by Pat Mitchell, I would say that my life’s trajectory has always been to speak out candidly on issues that adversely affect marginalised and disenfranchised groups. Showing up and advocating for those who do not have a voice is important to me and taking the risk and the consequences comes with the territory.

Pat Mitchell talks about dutifully following her own grandmother’s words: “Falling on your face is at least falling forwards.” What are the words you have always lived by and why?

I’ve always been surrounded by deep thinkers. My parents were philosophical about life lessons and our conversations were never around what you can’t do but the possibilities of “what if you give it a go?” So, the words of Jose N. Harris inspire me every day: “Falling down is part of life. Getting back up is living.”

In her book, Pat talks about how as a global community of women, we are at an intersection where the risks are bigger but so are the opportunities to lead toward a more just world. What opportunities, and risks, do you see yourself taking that will lead to positive change for future generations?

The opportunities are far and wide and I am privileged to be able to advocate and coalesce with diverse communities and organisations on important issues that cross over climate justice, indigenous peoples’ rights, suicide prevention and violence and women. The risk is in showing up, speaking truths and calling for greater transparency and accountability at a time when complacency seems to be the social conscious norm.

The word ‘power’ takes on different dimensions depending on the lens you look through. Bella Abzug predicted that in the 21st century, women will change the nature of power rather than the power changing the nature of women. Ideally, how would you see women using and sharing their power and what impact do you see this having?

It is an ideal to see women using their power to create a humane and compassionate world. Realistically, not all women have the access to power or the opportunity to exercise or share power. It is therefore my hope that women across all social-economic, political and global boundaries use their power justly and fairly to create a more inclusive world that is people and not economics driven.

We currently live in a very divisive and divided world. To mend our global community, we need innovative and creative solutions to challenging issues. What issue, or issues, concern you the most and what will it take to solve it.

The lack of civility concerns me as well as the lack of compassion and human connection with one another. In this increasingly digital and social media driven globe the basic modes of connection are lost. The tenets of respect, dignity, truth and love are becoming increasingly overshadowed by instant gratification, self-entitlement and ego. There used to be a time when disagreements were part and parcel of life’s lessons and when saying “no” was respected. Returning to community engagement and interaction is important. Taking steps can be a simple hi to your neighbour or a social media free day or volunteering for a community that you know nothing about. It can simply be showing up and giving a helping hand or just going about your day with a smile on your face, letting everyone around you know that they are worth it.


Dr Anne-Marie Tupuola-Plunkett is an Independent Scholar and International Consultant (including to the United Nations) specialising in human development, adolescent development and diasporic identities.


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