Fancy an exotic journey? An ethnic community may just be at your doorstep. Since 19th century, Hong Kong has become a multicultural city with a number of ethnic groups settling here, but the majority of Chinese Hongkongers never seem to cross paths with these neighbours. Intercultural education is non-existent in our schooling system, and there is a dearth of positive intercultural experience in everyday life. A lack of mutual understanding creates cultural ignorance, resulting in cultural misconceptions, social stereotypes and even fear.
At the same time, women of minority communities often suffer double marginalisation, discriminated as minorities by mainstream society, and simultaneously as females in their own community. Many of them have little choice other than being full-time homemakers and/or taking up part-time work in low-paying occupations.
Intercultural dialogues and experience are the basis to building intercultural understanding and ending multiple marginalisation of ethnic communities. Building on the Multiculturalism in Action (MIA) programme launched in 2013, this project taps particularly into the creativity and networks of women to bring sustained changes diffused in everyday life in neighbourhoods. Past MIA participants who act as cultural trainers closely mentor and train ethnic women participants to design and deliver their own intercultural programmes for the wider community under four themes: handicraft, food culture, sport, and film and art. Participants also co-produce “textbooks” with the project team – collections of their cultural wisdom as tool kits for education.
Since 2013, the MIA programme has trained over 70 cultural ambassadors and conducted intercultural talks for over 3000 teachers and students. This project in particular redefines traditional gender role expectations and conventions of access to social and cultural capital. Emphasising action from the ground up, it fosters mutual understanding and appreciation among members of different ethnic communities in Hong Kong; enhances positive intercultural experiences and empowerment of women participants, and members of their family and their neighbourhood; as well as promotes intercultural and gender sensibility on a social level and more informed public policy regarding ethnic and gender equality.
– 25 cultural trainers
– 59 new Chinese participants
– 42 new participants from ethnic communities
Prof Tam is a cultural anthropologist having done long-time research on gender and ethnic relations in Hong Kong, with a focus on changing identities in social and cultural transformation. Filling a niche in intercultural education in Hong Kong society, she is an inspiration to those who are eager to combine research with action in the community. Off work, Maria takes great interest in observing glocal cultural phenomena and enjoys different art forms especially playing the Chinese instrument guqin.
Prof Tam received her PhD in Anthropology from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa.
As a Muslim and an ethnic minority herself, Raees is deeply interested in research on gender equality, minority rights and inter-ethnic relations. She is an active human rights advocate and a Senior Minority Fellow at the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Raees did her PhD at HKU.