Each year, Zonta International offers awards and scholarships for Young Women in Public Affairs, which recognise women with leadership skills and who are involved in public service and civic causes. Each club offers one prize, and awardees are then eligible to compete for the district and possibly even international awards.
In 2018 the Zonta Club of Sydney awarded our YWPA prize to Jeanne Shu, who visited us and impressed us all at our October meeting talking about her multiple achievements. To hear more about Jeanne and her passions, as well as her career aspirations, keep reading!
ZCS – When did you first become interested in policy and politics?
JS – Whether they are aware of it or not, everyone is interested in policy and politics, or at least are interested in its consequences. If you have just one thing that you are deeply passionate about, chances are there are a body of policies and individuals who govern over it. I became interested in policy upon the personal realisation of ‘the personal is political’ as coined by the second-wave feminist movement. The issues in our private sphere are innately a reflection of the concerns established in politics. To me, caring about what happens to those in need, or our families, or our future selves inevitably involves engagement with politics.
ZCS – Tell us about your experiences in the My First Speech competition and Youth Advisory committee.
JS – In Year 12, I was also fortunate to participate in the Federal Parliament of Australia My First Speech program that allowed me to post a mock maiden speech concerning an issue that was of key pertinence to my local government. Amidst the early day sentiments of the Trump administration and the revival of the One Nation Party last year, I was compelled to speak about multiculturalism, especially giving a testament of my local government of Auburn which is the most multicultural local government area in Australia. To me, it was particularly interesting how the impact of social policy permeated into everyday dialogue, how the rising concerns of national security has infiltrated how we speak in our backyards to condemn the lives of some Australians on the grounds of race, ethnic origin or religion. As a finalist of this program, I was truly fortunate that my speech was able to reach an audience of federal and state government representatives.
In my local community, I volunteered as a member of the Auburn Youth Advisory Collective that collaborates with local council on projects to improve the wellbeing of youth and advise on issues of public policy which are felt to directly affect young people in the LGA. A major project was our ‘Mad Hatters Tea Party’, inspired by the theme of ‘We’re all mad here’ in Alice in Wonderland, that is a morning tea event for high school students aiming to stimulate conversation about mental health that is taboo in the dominant cultures in Auburn. Through AYAC, I also had the opportunity to participate in forming the inaugural Cumberland Council Youth Strategy with the aim that the amalgamated council would be the best council for young people.
ZCS – Why did you apply for the Zonta Young Women in Public Affairs Award?
JS – Having a passion already comes with its rewards and thus to be recognised for one is entirely a privilege. I was introduced to the Zonta Young Women in Public Affairs Award when I was browsing through internship and job opportunities on 1Scope. With the award being about a passion for public service and resonating with Zonta’s message about women supporting women, I decided to give it a shot an apply for it.
ZCS – Tell us more about your involvement in the Kind Necessities charity.
JS – I’m now involved in a youth-run charity called KindNecessities that supports refugee women through providing those in need with sanitary necessities, basic hygiene products and education and provokes discussion surrounding female hygiene through primary and high school education workshops. It has been empowering to be supporting this amazing grassroots charity which highlights a fundamental part of a woman, and yet a routine that is overlooked for refugee women and local women in need who lack access to basic feminine hygiene products.
Our current initiative is a fundraiser where by using reusable female hygiene items and documenting our experiences we look to help spark dialogue about periods and bring awareness to the conditions that refugee women face during menstruation, with all profits going to bringing essential sanitary products to women in need. [https://gofundme.com/jeanneforKN for more information]
ZCS – What is next for you?
JS – My next steps forward are looking towards how to fuel my passion for public service in new challenging landscapes. I am fortunate in the Summer holiday to be in Washington DC to undertake an intern placement under Congressman Jim Costa U.S. Representative for California. My work will include attending hearing, researching legislative issues and responding to constituent inquiries. Having this rare opportunity to work in a congressional office is truly something unfathomable growing up in the other side of the world.
ZCS – What are your long term goals?
JS – My long term career goal is to be intimately involved implementing policies that have the potential to shape an individual life or the entire nation. It is easy to spot where change in needed, however to institute positive change into practice would a fulfilling and challenging field.