Being followed by men was sadly a standard occurrence for young women growing up in Sunshine, says 23-year old Jazzy, who was followed home on a number of occasions between the ages of 12 to 18 years.
“It would happen to some girls that I went to school with, they’d come to school crying about it. Sometimes it was groups of males, but for the most part it was one random person. It was a pretty scary thing to go through but most girls my age just accepted that it was part of life.”
“My parents knew about it. The school knew that it had happened and often, the advice was that you just need to be careful and you can’t go out alone,” Jazzy said.
Those early experiences have shaped Jazzy’s values and passions. As a strong advocate for the rights of women, Jazzy wants to see the elimination of violence against women and girls.
“I have not been a victim of directly, but I know of far too many people who have experienced it. It’s something that I know I will always have to fear as a woman, but it shouldn’t have to be like that.”
Jazzy is keen to raise the voices of young women to talk about “everything”.
One topic she is particularly passionate about is the effects of ‘slut-shaming’ on young women, which is a form of bullying that happens on social media or in the school corridors where girls are targeted about their sexuality.
“It’s a thing that all girls go through and it’s also affecting non-binary people,” said Jazzy.
When people are ‘slut-shamed’ they are often made fun of for the way they look, the way they dress or their presumed level of sexual activity.
“And now we have to deal with things like OnlyFans which has skyrocketed on social media. There’s a lot of girls on it, because they can take control of their bodies and get money quick. It’s a little exaggerated and very confusing.”
The Les Twentyman Foundation’s basketball club led Jazzy to a place in the EMBRACE program at just 12 years of age and she has stayed involved since then.
“The EMBRACE program has been very supportive, I’ve learnt a lot by teaching and mentoring young people and life lessons that I didn’t know I was going to need.”
One of her key takeaways was to be aware of the people you let into your life. Some of the most important people in Jazzy’s life have been women including her great grandmother, grandmothers, aunties and mum.
Jazzy says her great grandmother had 14 kids and raised all the greatest people in her life.
“These women all went against the odds and made it through with strength, persistence and courage. They are strong willed and when they were told no, they would find another way, another door.”
Jazzy’s parents moved from the Philippines to Australia for “a better life”. They were both factory workers in Sunshine and have a family of three daughters. There were always high expectations that their daughters would be successful.
Jazzy says she experienced pressure to finish school, go to university and get a degree but she wanted to experience more things.
“When I didn’t do what was expected of me, I had to take from the strongest women in my life and become self-assured. As I get older, I’m less fearful of making those decisions.”
While Jazzy has spent some time at university, she wasn’t able to continue her studies due to changes in her life and is taking steps to completing a Certificate 4 in Mental Health.
“I have a passion for the mind and I really enjoy learning about it. I was exposed at a very young age to people experiencing mental health issues and I know there’s a huge need for more support in this area.”
When asked what advice she would give her younger self, Jazzy says not to be scared of meeting the cultural expectations that come with being of Asian descent.
“I would let her know that life’s going to get interesting and that every decision I made was the right one. Don’t let fear control your decision-making.”