RECLAIMING THE NARRATIVES OF AANHPI WOMEN
As Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership (CAPAL*) interns, we were tasked with a Community Action Project (CAP) to give back and address issues facing the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI*) community.
While identifying as emerging Asian American female professionals, we wanted to hear from and collect the stories of the diverse, inspiring, talented, and resilient AANHPI women who comprise the Asian Pacific American Women’s Leadership Institute (APAWLI*) fellows from the Center for Asian Pacific American Women (CAPAW*). Our purpose is to reclaim the narratives of AANHPI women. For too long, the experiences and achievements of AANHPI women have been overlooked by history. We wanted to create a space for these women to share their stories, struggles, and successes by documenting their paths and shining a light on the amazing work that they have done.
By exploring and documenting the complex identities of these women through our conversations, we highlight the unique narratives that bring our community together. One thing we hoped to capture is the diversity of women within the umbrella of AANHPI. All of our experiences as Asian women and professionals is incredibly different. Each of the women we interviewed occupy a unique space within the workforce— spanning careers from insurance, non-profits, public service within the government, academia, and business, amongst many others. We hoped to document the various ethnic and professional backgrounds, interests, and journeys of the APAWLI fellows in our website to dispel the myth of a monolith and prove that AANHPI professionals can truly do anything.
In our interviews, the fellows explored their identities, lived experiences, and their journeys through APAWLI, providing their wisdom, advice, and empowerment for the many AANHPI youth and women looking for role models who look like them. We hope that by telling their stories, we will be able to continue fortifying the sisterhood of uplifting fellow AANHPI women.
Richelle: These women are all so incredible, and it's been such an honor to not only be able to hear, but also share their stories. These interviews have been inspiring, and even personally healing, from hearing about the lived experiences of women in my AANHPI community and seeing how our unique journeys are all interconnected. I felt so empowered by the rich insights and pieces of advice the women I interviewed have shared about being the most authentic version of yourself, finding your voice as a whole-person leader, and mentoring others to help them explore that within themselves as well. The APAWLI fellows will surely leave behind such powerful legacies. This project has shown how important it is that we continue sharing their narratives, and those of other AANHPI women, to make sure their legacies live on.
Roberta: The experience of interviewing the APAWLI fellows had pushed me to further understand and embrace the aspect of being a part of the AANHPI community within and also outside of the community. Through the interviews, I realized the importance of individuality, representation, having a voice, and holding space. I learned that it is acceptable to hold spaces and be your individual self while still existing and belonging under the AANHPI umbrella. I am inspired, empowered, and strengthened by these women and their narratives and legacy will live on through me.
Vishni: The interviews conducted allowed me to further understand the importance and the process that is behind finding your voice as a young AANHPI-American woman and leader. Often being the only Asian American women in a position of leadership or in a predominantly white space can pose many challenges that leave room for fear and doubt. The women I interviewed helped me to realize that there is considerable time and effort that goes into cultivating your voice, and that instead of pushing away fear and doubt, be cognizant of it and grow from it. The APAWLI fellows are inspiring leaders passionate about their fields of work and the ways in which they can support and enhance their communities. I know that they will leave a legacy that aspiring, young, AANHPI women leaders will honor and look up to.
Aashna: After interviewing the APAWLI fellows, the importance of mentorship was impressed upon me. Having a mentor who can guide you through experiences such as imposter syndrome, the model minority myth, and exploring your identity both as an AANHPI and American— challenges that both the women I interviewed faced— is incredibly valuable when you are a burgeoning leader and professional. Both APAWLI fellows emerged from the program as leaders who not only better understood their identity as individuals, but also as members of a larger family and sisterhood that they knew would help guide them in both their professional and personal lives. I am greatly appreciative of the opportunity to learn from the APAWLI fellows I interviewed and to have joined a larger community within CAPAL this summer.
Angie: Growing up, I didn't have a lot of Asian female role models to look up to (either in popular media or in real life) who really understood my interests in women's rights, social justice, and politics as well as being cognizant of what it meant to be an AANHPI woman who broke stereotypes and went "against the grain" so to speak. Through these interviews, I had the opportunity to talk to amazing and inspiring AANHPI women who I wish I had met sooner. In the interviews, I learned about the importance of sisterhood within the Asian communities as well as staying true to yourself, self care, and the experience of growing up with immigrant parents that made us all a bit tougher and instilling a sort of drive and hunger in us to achieve great things. I am so honored to have been able to listen to the fellows' insight and share our experiences with each other.
Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI)
Similar versions of this acronym used to describe the Asian American community include Asian Pacific American (APA), Asian Pacific Islander (API), Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI), or Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Desi American (APIDA)
The Asian Pacific American Women’s Leadership Institute (APAWLI) was founded in 1995 by the “Warrior Sisters” who wanted to address the challenges faced by AANHPI women and to nurture trusteeship within our communities. APAWLI is a signature leadership program hosted by Center for Asian Pacific American Women (CAPAW) which seeks to promote leadership of AANHPI women in the corporate, nonprofit, and government sectors by fostering the development of these women as whole person leaders.
The Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership (CAPAL) seeks to empower AANHPI youth by increasing access to public service opportunities and building a strong AANHPI public service pipeline. Programs include a scholarship and intern program, professional development seminars, and a Washington Leadership Program. Contact CAPAL at email@example.com and learn more at: https://www.capal.org/site/
The Center for Asian Pacific American Women (CAPAW) strives to nurture AANHPI communities by expanding leadership capacity, fostering awareness of AANHPI issues, creating a supportive network of AANHPI women leaders, and strengthening community. Contact the center at firstname.lastname@example.org Learn more at: https://apawomen.org/