Apr 24, 2017
Keshia Hannam is dedicated to helping the women of Hong Kong, and the world, through the causes she champions and creates. The passionate half-Australian, half-Indian is the co-founder of Camel Assembly— a global platform for creative female leaders, in addition to being a writer, presenter, and campaigner for environmental projects. Her work is crucial in a city like Hong Kong, where, despite the social progress made by women over the years, traditional patriarchal values are still inherent. #legend speaks to her about inspiration, work, and feminism.
Can you share with us more about Camel Assembly?
Camel Assembly is where diverse female leaders come together to create. We feel there is a desperate need to unite the facets of making, vulnerability— like emotional and spiritual health— and hustling— the entrepreneurial spirit. Think Women’s March and International Women’s Day, every day.
What made you decide to found this group?
I didn’t really decide to, it all happened rather serendipitously when I attended a Camel Assembly in New York, run by the founder Yelda Ali. I remember walking into a hive of forceful energy; a room filled with women who were simultaneously welcoming, overtly creative and pioneering in their fields. Noticing the ease with which connections were made, I decided it was precisely the type of format that every woman in every city needs, especially Hong Kong.
What have you noticed in Hong Kong about gender equality and female empowerment that made you want to step up?
Hong Kong remains the bastion of capitalism, and though it’s slowly changing, the working structures established within the city are as archaic as the philosophy that drives it—even though women make up a tremendous amount of the workforce here.
How do you feel this project benefits the community?
Camel Assembly is socially driven, and women in the collective decide on which cause is most dear to them, find other like-minds, and together we run everything from book clubs to domestic abuse-fighting boxing classes. I have resolved that for the most part humans aren’t evil, we’re just chronically lazy. By knocking down the excuses and making positive impact part of daily routine, we’re far more likely to push the needle than by exerting ourselves unnaturally or in isolation.
What has been the best part of starting this project?
Being able to provide a mechanism that facilitates the dreams of other people so fluidly and enjoyably. The consistent feedback that comes back is: we need this, we need each other, and the world needs us.
What does it mean to you to be an empowered person?
To me, empowerment has become a bit of a commodity, and it strikes me as bizarre that empowerment is constantly marketed to women and not to men. When every person has the same options laid before them or access to the same choices, I will feel we’ve reached a level of empowerment that is scalable and authentic.
How can women empower one another more?
Collaboration over competition. We should all go get tattoos of this mantra, such is its importance.
How do you feel about the concept of, ‘the future is female’?
I see the value in highlighting and supporting minorities whose plight is presently less visible than others (i.e.. #blacklivesmatter couldn’t be apter), but the ethos of 'The Future is Female' appears to contradict the very nature of feminism. The future is not female. It’s not male. The future will reflect the level of consciousness we’re able to reach as a collective. Ultimately, the future is ours and will be taken by those bullish and creative enough to believe that to be true.
Who are the women that have inspired you throughout your life?
My mother and grandmother are two of the strongest, most kind, wise and selfless human beings I have ever come to know. Yelda Ali, the founder of Camel Assembly and my best friend, lives a life that is consistently and unceasingly altruistic. Christiana Figueres, the Costa Rican diplomat who is largely the reason the Paris Agreement came to be, stands as a figure who effectively knits together power and intuition.
Do you rely on a female network? If so, how?
I have been very fortunate to have always been surrounded by and attracted to strong, supportive, hilarious and driven women. My very being relies on a female network and I have yet to encounter a more deeply gratifying, efficient or fulfilling grid to progress through life with.