SOUPHA RAWADY- AUSTRALIA CELEBRATES PRIDE MONTH
Soupha received his Master of Environmental Management and Development from Macquarie University in Australia in 2013. More recently, Soupha graduated from the Leadership for Gender Inclusion program delivered by Griffith University on behalf of the Australian Government (completed May 2021). Soupha’s inclusion in this program reflects his passion and dedication to improving diversity and inclusion in Lao workplaces, society and particularly for LGBTQI+ youth.
During his time in Sydney, Soupha was a Macquarie University Queer Collective (MUQC) member. MUQC is an official social group that is open to LGBTQI+ students and their straight allies to meet, discuss and organise activities and events. “I loved the authenticity of the group. It inspired me to be my whole self, and that allowed me to build my confidence and leadership skills through initiating ideas into my group projects and activities.”
Demonstrating his own diversity, Soupha said that he is a permanent tree-hugger, a freelance consultant, a part-time LGBTQI+ advocate and an English teacher. He also own a small enterprise called Pakay Consultancy, mainly providing interpreting and translation services.
This current work, advocacy and free-spirited pathway follows an eight-year career as a Senior Environmental Technical Advisor for a mining company in Sepon District, Savannakhet. He left in 2016 and, in the same year, accepted an invitation to represent Laos as an LGBTQI+ rights activist at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) conference in Bangkok. This indelible opportunity involved reviewing the human rights records of all UN Member States. “Attending the UPR conference in Bangkok in 2016 was an eye-opening experience. We identified and reviewed various human rights issues around the world including natural resources access and management, women’s rights, rights of the child and Sexual Orientation, Gender identity and Expression (SOGIE) rights.”
Following this work, in 2017, he was invited by Anan Bouapha – an Australia Awards Fellowships alum and a Founder of ‘Proud to Be Us Laos’ (the first LGBTQI+ group in Laos) – to volunteer for the position of Foreign Liaison and SOGIE Advisor. “I didn’t even have a second thought to join Proud to Be Us Laos because I always wanted to be part of the LGBTQI+ community and to make a profound difference in the lives of LGBTQI+ people”, Soupha said.
Recently, Soupha participated in a ten-week Leadership for Gender Inclusion Program supported by the Australian Government and delivered by Griffith University. This enriching experience provided him with the opportunity to deepen his awareness of gender issues and learn about leading gender diversity and inclusion practices. Finishing the program at the end of May, he is already using these insights to inform his work and day-to-day life. “Whilst my knowledge about gender equality has broadened, I was also able to share my experience and insights into the challenges and opportunities for the LGBTQI+ community in Laos with my fellow participants”, Soupha said. When the group was presenting their individual final projects at the end of the course, he was grateful to see how participants included and considered his insights in their project strategies.
His advice to younger alumni and on-award students who aspire to promote gender equality and who want to be allies with the LGBTQI+ community is to start by remembering ‘A little act of kindness goes a long way’. “If you’re a parent at a dinner table, you can discuss with your son and daughter about positive and negative gender norms, such as both boys and girls should do household chores. If you’re a boss at work, value your employee’s performance regardless of their appearance, age, gender identity, or disability. If you experience seeing an LGBTQI+ person being bullied, stand up and tell the perpetrator that his or her behaviour is unacceptable, and if you’re a powerful authority, please add in your public speech a little recognition of LGBTQI+ advocates in the country.” said Soupha.
As a prominent advocate of influencing a better and peaceful society for all, Soupha will continue to support and respond to challenges toward embracing diversity and inclusion to create solutions that benefit the Lao community.