Listen to #Hashtag Hong Kong every Sunday morning at 8.15
Focussing on issues affecting civil society, we'll hear from representatives of NGOs, associations, statutory bodies, and non-profit groups.
(Sundays 8.15am - 8.25am)
Good morning, my name is Innocent Mutanga, the Founder and CEO of Africa Center Hong Kong. Africa Center is a platform and creative hub that fosters value-creating interactions between African and non-African communities in Asia. Our mission is to bridge cultural differences and foster relations and cultural understanding between communities. We are a social enterprise dedicated to fulfilling the needs of our clients while promoting diversity and community representation.
Throughout our journey, we have collaborated with over 70 schools, reaching more than 50,000 students over the 5 years since our establishment. In addition to working with schools, we have formed partnerships with corporates, NGOs, consulates, and the general public.
One of the key goals at Africa Center is to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding black individuals in Asia. We call this campaign “Rebranding Blackness”. The struggles faced by black individuals living or visiting Asian countries are complex and multifaceted. We often encounter challenges such as stereotypes, discrimination, and a lack of representation. One of the most prevalent issues is the perpetuation of negative stereotypes about black people. Limited exposure and understanding have led some individuals to hold preconceived notions associating black individuals with criminality or low intelligence. These stereotypes result in biased treatment, social exclusion, and even harassment.
Discrimination against ethnic minorities in Hong Kong occurs in various forms, ranging from everyday microaggressions to more overt acts of racial prejudice. For instance, on my daily commute to the office, I often witness people choosing to stand rather than sit next to me on the MTR, even when there are empty seats available. This is just one example of the subtle forms of discrimination we experience. In more severe cases, ethnic minorities are denied housing opportunities solely based on their race. These microaggressions and racial prejudices not only have a socio-economic impact on our community but also take a significant toll on our mental well-being.
The employment prospects for qualified individuals from our community are hindered by anti-black biases in Hong Kong. Even highly talented individuals with advanced degrees may find themselves underemployed, working as dishwashers in restaurants due to these racial biases.
As a black person living in Hong Kong, my experience can be summed up in two words: caution and curiosity. We often encounter caution and fear from the older generations who unfortunately also hold the keys to our employment opportunities and access to grants and funding for starting businesses. On the other hand, we receive curiosity from the younger generation, who are more open-minded but vulnerable to influences from their parents and teachers. It is disheartening to discover that a significant number of students when asked if their parents warned them to be careful of black people before visiting our centre, raise their hands. Usually, 90% of kids raise their hands if we ask them if they have been verbally warned by their parents to be careful of us prior to the workshop. This demonstrates the extent of the misconceptions that persist in society.
However, there are heartwarming encounters that remind us of the potential for change. For example, a Chinese boy who attended our African Kidz club expressed his love for our food and suggested having a Fufu Festival in Hong Kong. Additionally, there was an instance where a child approached me on the MTR, and we started playing together, just like any other African child would. I was pleasantly surprised when the parent didn't intervene. Unfortunately, such situations are rare, and most parents tend to quickly remove their children from these interactions. These small enlightening moments give people like me the incentive to strive for change and challenge the negative perceptions of Africans and ethnic minorities. As Nelson Mandela once said, "No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."
Despite Hong Kong's diversity, stereotypes, biases, and discrimination persist within society. As a political refugee who has experience navigating and overcoming complex systems, I am committed to assisting others; Refugees and non-refugees are alike who are faced with complex systems in their lives that make it hard or even impossible to survive, live or thrive
Education has the power to challenge prejudices, dismantle barriers, and promote inclusivity. By providing resources, mentorship, and support, we can empower marginalized communities and foster a more equitable society. Through awareness, dialogue, and collaboration, we can create a Hong Kong that embraces diversity and upholds justice and equality.
Our immediate goals are twofold. Firstly, we aim to connect with open-minded teachers, company leaders, and community figures who are willing to make a social impact by inviting us to their respective communities, schools, or churches. This will allow us to share our experiences and cultures, helping to create a more inclusive society for Africans and other ethnic minorities in Hong Kong. Secondly, we hope to obtain resources such as funding and skilled volunteers to support our initiatives directly benefiting the African and ethnic minority communities, including career workshops, networking opportunities, and entrepreneurship training.
In conclusion, it is crucial for the government and our community to take collective action to improve the care and support for ethnic minorities in Hong Kong. By fostering inclusivity, challenging stereotypes, and providing equal opportunities, we can create a society that values diversity and upholds the principles of equality and inclusion. Thank you for your time and for considering our message. We believe that together, we can make a difference and create a more inclusive and accepting Hong Kong. As a token of appreciation, we would like to dedicate a song to the people of Hong Kong. The song is called “Amani” by one of my favourite bands called Beyond. A song with Swahili lyrics (an East African Language) by a band that would go above and beyond to extend a hand to support other groups' struggles with their visits or music. I hope that this song resonates with you and encourages you to maintain Hong Kong’s “Beyond Spirit”!
Dear Hong Kong Community,
When I spoke with you all two years ago, we were facing grim circumstances. COVID had caused separation and devastation, and it was unclear just how far its impact would extend and for how long. But now, thanks to the collective efforts and sustained hope of each and every one of you, we are looking out to new, brighter horizons.
Hong Kong aspires to take its place as a cultural powerhouse on a global stage – and there’s so much this city has to offer the rest of the world. However, before we can do so, we must address our rapidly ageing society and economic challenges fuelled by a persistent talent shortage. One way for us to meaningfully address some of these issues is through closing the gender gap.
The benefits of gender equality are clear and long established: Happier families. Better business outcomes. A more robust economy. These benefits help everyone, regardless of gender.
But our city is far from reaping the benefits of gender equality. Only 48% of women are in the workforce, this is lower than many of our neighbours including Singapore, Australia and Japan. Women are 10 times more likely than men to cite household responsibilities as a key reason for not being economic contributors. For every HK$10 earned by a man, women earn just HK$8.5. These are but a few of the numerous gender inequalities that continue to permeate areas such as safety, mental health, poverty, and career advancement, among others.
What is preventing us from closing the gender gap?
A key barrier to progress is zero sum thinking – where individuals believe that promoting the rights and opportunities of one gender will diminish and devalue another. A “you lose, I win” mindset.
We know the zero-sum mindset is prevalent in Hong Kong: 38% of men and 52% of women believe gender equality is a women’s issue and men need to stay out of the way, and 47% of men and 29% of women believe women benefit most from a gender equal society.
We need people of all genders to model inclusive mindsets, to ensure that the full constellation of diverse voices are heard and valued. To ensure there are equitable opportunities, policies, and distribution of resources.
And while government and businesses all play a part in making this happen, none of this change is possible without individual action and buy-in. So how can we each #InspireInclusion this IWD? Here are three ways to start:
1. Learn about the issues. Understand how gender inequality harms people of all genders and what forms this can take. Look at how this issue intersects with, and is complicated by, other identity factors such as race / ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, ability, religion, socio-economic background and more.
2. Talk about it. At work and at home talk about how the zero sum mindset might unintentionally show up. For instance, the misconception that if a male colleague advocates for gender equality at work it may negatively impact their own career or the misbelief that if a woman takes on more responsibilities at work, it will negatively impact the well-being of their family at home. Explore pushback or resistance to the idea that gender equality benefits everyone and share ideas on how best to tackle this.
3. Do the work and be an ally. Commit to listening, learning and acting. Use gender inclusive language. Refrain from phrases, jokes or cultural references that perpetuate stereotypes about any one gender. Actively intervene when you hear someone else perpetuating stereotypes. Help others see the benefits of gender equality.
These are just a few of the many, many actions each of us can take.
I know this is no easy task. Reflecting on our own internalised biases and assumptions and then taking action to address these areas is challenging, ever-evolving work at an individual, organisational and societal level.
As CEO of The Women's Foundation, I know an inclusive, gender equal city is possible. I have seen first-hand the exceptional results that follow when individuals and organisations put in the effort to understand how gender inequality harms people of all genders, determine where they might be perpetuating biases and take initiative to change.
Our Mentoring Programme and Male Allies communities are inclusively leading in their companies and in our community; our Young Allies are influencing the next generation of gender equality advocates; and our Girls Go Tech Programme participants are not just ensuring future STEM fields are more gender equal, they will be working to solve some of the most challenging issues of our time.
The work of each of us – as individuals, organisations, communities – matters. And when our efforts are combined, the results are transformational.
Join us to #InspireInclusion this International Women's Day and take steps for a gender equal future through your words and actions.
I'd like to dedicate this song to the women and girls of Hong Kong – and all gender equality advocates. The song is In debt by a local band Riddem.