Only you know every action you have ever taken. I want to go to sleep each night at peace with myself, harbouring as few regrets as possible, knowing I have done my best to contribute to a peaceful, compassionate, creative and sustainable local and global community. If you, too, want this kind of a world, then you will not accept the institutionalised discrimination and continued devaluing of girls and women.
For the past 15 years, Ming Yu Hah has been involved with a diverse range of not-for-profit organisations in Australia and overseas, dedicated to project management, capacity building and civil society empowerment. Currently based in Sydney, she leads several Amnesty International campaigns, including those addressing gender inequality.
Born in Malaysia, Ming Yu became aware at an early age of the way difference can trigger fear and violence, rather than being a cause for celebration, heightened curiosity and expanded minds and hearts. Systemic discrimination against non-Malays was one of the reasons Ming Yu’s Chinese parents gave up their citizenship to seek equality for their children by migrating to Australia, moving first to the tiny Top End town of Jabiru, then Darwin, later settling in Sydney. Many Australians welcomed them with incredible generosity and warmth, whilst others hurled raw eggs and racial abuse.
It was through her studies at the University of Sydney that Ming Yu became increasingly outraged by the grim reality facing many girls and women around the world. She subsequently joined the women’s collective, became co-convenor of Amnesty International’s campus group and co-editor of the student newspaper, Honi Soit. She also volunteered with the Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL), a non-partisan, feminist lobby group working to improve the status of women in Australia, meeting many passionate and accomplished women.
After completing a Bachelor of Arts degree, Ming Yu worked for six years at a fundraising consultancy, 2evolve. In addition to raising funds, she mobilised the Australian public to take action in campaigns, including those challenging gender-based violence and inequality such as the rape of women as a strategy of war, death by stoning and other honour killings, extreme poverty in female-headed households, and poor access to maternal health services.
Frustrated by the disconnect between her own life in Sydney and the harrowing conditions of the lives of so many people around the world, Ming Yu was inspired to complete a Master of International Social Development at University of NSW so she could work directly with affected communities. She subsequently spent four years in Sri Lanka, Burma and the Maldives, working with the United Nations and local NGOs to build capacity and advance the rights of communities at a grassroots level, including addressing the discrimination faced by women and girls.
Ming Yu returned to Sydney in 2010 and is currently a campaigner with Amnesty International. She leads the Australian office’s work on international issues such as halting the ongoing human rights abuses in Sri Lanka and preventing torture by police in the Philippines. A significant professional highlight was her participation in the final stages of the successful 20-year campaign to establish the ground-breaking Arms Trade Treaty, which is designed to prevent armed violence, including against women and girls. Gender-based violence all over the world is exacerbated by the proliferation of weapons. In April 2013, the world’s governments finally agreed to the first-ever global weapons regulation that prevents arms from being exported to countries where these weapons are likely to be used to commit mass rape, systemic torture and genocide.
Ming Yu’s work with Afghan women in Australia and in Afghanistan has also been deeply rewarding. Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, the lives of girls and women have generally improved. However, gender discrimination continues to be widespread, with targeted killings of female political and community leaders, shockingly high rates of domestic violence and forced early marriage, and attacks on students and teachers at girls’ schools. Through her role with Amnesty International, Ming Yu helps to support the thousands of courageous women’s rights activists in Afghanistan who daily risk their lives by standing up for the safety and advancement of girls and women. Together, they call on the Afghanistan government and associated foreign governments to ensure women and girls in Afghanistan are effectively protected and genuinely empowered, and that perpetrators of abuses are brought to justice.
In her private life as well as at work, Ming Yu is committed to challenging and addressing the widespread violation of human rights including gender discrimination. She uses music, theatre and documentary films to encourage and inspire people to contribute to social change.