To mark International Women's Day this year we are celebrating some of the professional and academic staff who make our College a world-leading insitution for research and teaching.
In this piece, we chat to Dr Imelda Deinla, Research Fellow at the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet). Imelda is also the Director of the Philippines Project.
What inspired you to get into your field of research and why?
It was borne out of experience, having to navigate a very challenging legal and political environment in my home country, the Philippines. I was a lawyer having experienced the public, private and NGO sectors and I realized how little research there is to support our advocacies on legal reforms, judicial empowerment and human rights. I felt frustrated with an over reliance on what the formal legal system can do to make lives better especially for the marginalized. I was looking for a discipline that would connect law with social realities, and that was when I get interested in the interdisciplinary study of the rule of law in the Southeast Asia region.
Who is a woman in your field you look up to?
I’ve always looked up to women who break barriers and are not afraid to ’pay’ for the consequences of their beliefs and vision. There are Filipino women lawyers who continue to defy and challenge the status quo or abusive regimes. Many of them work quietly behind the limelight. I salute them and they are the ones who keep the fire burning to protect our fundamental freedoms and inspire others to carry on.
What is a teaching/research project you are currently working on that motivates you?
I am fortunate to take on work that has policy salience for the Philippines. At the moment, I’m working in three main areas of research: violence against women and hybrid justice in Mindanao, constitutional politics and rule of law in the Philippines, and governance in the rice trade in the Philippines and Papua New Guinea.
My work with the ANU Philippines Project also gives me the opportunity to create a safe and vibrant space for critical discussion on relevant political, economic and legal issues affecting the country, in the Philippines and in Australia. I hope that through the Philippines Project, more Australian academics would be interested to do more studies about the Philippines.
What are you most proud of?
Through the academe, I have sharpened and broadened the reach of my advocacies. It is a nice feeling to be recognized by your peers but having ordinary people understand and appreciate your work and telling you that your work is meaningful to them gives me the inspiration to do better.
I had this interview on press freedom and political developments in the Philippines that went viral and as a consequence I got trolled and hurled with verbal abuse. What made me proud of that incident however was the outpouring of support from so many people from all over and in knowing that many people still care – and would fight for a society where people can live without fear and with dignity.
What's your advice to your younger self about choosing the right path and juggling life's demands?
Be always grounded and be prepared for the instability of an academic career. Many of us survive on contracts and have to continuously look for opportunities. This can be disruptive of our research and personal goals. The academe, like any other workplace, can be very demanding and stressful. My advice is to keep an open mind and to build a life outside of the academe’s four corners.