FEATURE6 February 2023

The changing outlook of young women in southeast Asia

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Asia Pacific Features Impact Inclusion Trends

Shifting gender dynamics are leading to profound changes in the outlook of young Muslim women in southeast Asia. By Chen May Yee.

a woman in a office meeting wearing a hijab

In marketing and advertising, Muslim women tend to be depicted as homemakers or as carefree young hijabis chasing the latest (modest) fashion and (halal) beauty trends.

It’s high time for more realistic portrayals of Muslim women: as mothers and wives, yes, but also as students, workers, entrepreneurs, politicians and activists.

Muslim women are making headlines. In Iran, young women protested in schools and in universities after the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, detained by the morality police for not satisfactorily covering her hair. The protesters’ chants could not be more evocative: “Woman, life, freedom”.

In Afghanistan, women and girls took to the streets after a suicide attack on ethnic Hazara students sitting for a practice university entrance exam in Kabul.

If it seems like a moment, it is. They’re saying they have had enough of discrimination and inequality imposed by men in the name of religion. ...