When she was a teen, Asha Dahya remembers collecting magazine articles about ordinary, everyday women who were doing incredible things like fighting human trafficking, raising awareness about sexual assault, and making a difference in their local communities.
These stories resonated with Asha and served as a reminder of the collective strength and resiliency of women across the globe.
“I only recently found this collection in a folder tucked away in my parents’ house, on a visit to their place in Australia. It all made sense to me then that I was going to end up becoming a writer, producer, and creator centering my passions on the stories and voices of women, and especially women of color,” Asha Dahya, the debut author of “Today’s Wonder Women: Everyday Superheroes Who Are Changing the World,” told mornings with moni.
Asha’s book is based on and largely inspired by GirlTalkHQ, a blog series she created spotlighting the stories of “bold, brave, and badass women.”
“Today’s Wonder Women: Everyday Superheroes Who Are Changing the World,” features 50 profiles and interviews of “womxn and girls from around the world.” It features interviews from marriage survivors, environmental activists, as well as the first deaf-blind Harvard Law graduate who argued a case that helped change accessibility in tech for individuals with disabilities.
“It makes total sense that the first book [I wrote] would be about the bold, brave and badass women I was craving to see representations of my whole life, and especially through turbulent times,” said Asha.
The collection of stories, essays, and interviews celebrates “everyday wonder women” and their superpowers—everything from love to determination, vision, and grit. Asha shares that her book aims to help us all discover and tap into our own superpowers and look beyond setbacks and struggles.
“I believe anyone reading this book can find even one story they resonate with that will inspire them in their own journey to know that they too can be the hero of their own story.”
For Asha, “today’s wonder women” is a phrase she uses to refer to women who are charting their own paths forward, breaking new ground, and dismantling harmful systems. It’s a reminder that as “wonder women,” we can create a collective space to empower and support one another.
“My aim is to empower readers to know they too can be ‘wonder women’ in their own lives, and not just put others on a pedestal.”
GirlTalkHQ as the Inspiration for The Book, ‘Today’s Wonder Women’
Writing the book was extremely cathartic and important for Asha, who says it brought her back to her own journey when she first started her blog, GirlTalkHQ, while navigating a divorce at age 29.
“It was a time when I was all over the place mentally, emotionally, in my career, and of course my personal life. Along with my marriage being upended, so did my focus in life and identity.”
This served as a driving force for creating her blog series, GirlTalkHQ. Asha was eager to create an uplifting platform highlighting the stories of everyday women that others could resonate with.
“I was craving stories of everyday women who I could identify with, and who had been through similar or other struggles and weren’t afraid to be vulnerable about them. I think starting GirlTalkHQ also taught me bravery, and that I am the hero of my own story.”
After moving to Los Angeles, Asha began questioning and redefining who she was and what she wanted to be. “This period in my life led me to learning more about feminism and realizing that the way I was taught to ‘be’ a woman was so restrictive and honestly regressive.”
In the years following her divorce, Asha had to undo some of the toxic messages she was taught to believe in and instead, forged her own path to finding out her true purpose.
In creating the concept behind GirlTalkHQ, Asha utilized her diverse experience and talents as a former TV host and producer in Australia. GirlTalkHQ started off as a Tumblr page back in the day, but eventually was migrated to a website. When Asha first started publishing content, it was a passion project that eventually grew into a consistent creative venture which gained an immense following over the years.
“I knew I wanted to focus on stories about women, but also felt like I had to include celebrity angles and didn’t really find my niche until a few years later.”
With a lot of trial and error, Asha eventually found her voice and tapped into her storytelling strengths. Today, GirlTalkHQ features inspiring interviews with trailblazing everyday women, including guest posts from women in different industries across the globe.
‘Reframing Reproductive Rights’
Today, Asha is an outspoken reproductive rights advocate and is currently making a documentary series titled “Life At All Costs,” which takes a closer look at reproductive rights and justice with a focus on abortion laws.
“Abortion doesn’t happen in a vacuum and it is inextricably tied to so many other facets of life such as economics, healthcare, education, job security, paid leave, sex education, racism and more. I am hoping to show this through my series via personal and compelling stories,” says Asha.
The purpose of the documentary series, says Asha, is to humanize individuals who have gone through an abortion. “Once you start to actually listen to personal abortion stories, all of a sudden it is not so black and white, or clear cut. The complexities, the nuances, the conflicts and the struggles become clear.”
By centering personal abortion stories, Asha is hoping to open up more nuanced conversations that can shift the culture when it comes to abortion and bodily autonomy, says Asha. She plans to pitch her series to a streaming or digital network next year.
In January of 2019, Asha delivered a TEDxTalk titled “Reframing Reproductive Rights,” where she spoke about her former religious upbringing and conversations about pro-choice and pro-life. In the talk, Asha sought to reframe the conversation surrounding reproductive rights.
“My goal was to present a way of talking about abortion that wasn’t black and white and didn’t just automatically try and fit into the pro-choice vs pro life binary. We need to move beyond that. It is damaging and just political.”
Growing up, Asha shared that she used to attend a conservative Evangelical church. It was there where she became familiar with the pro-life movement, and never questioned the anti-choice stance until she moved to Los Angeles, California.
“But after leaving that church during my divorce, and changing my perspective to become more progressive and liberal, so many [of my] former church friends reached out to me to share their secret abortion and it made me stop and think about why they felt comfortable telling me, but were afraid to tell people in their own church.”
Asha’s passion for reproductive rights and the role of religion and gender stemmed from these conversations she had with her former church friends. It inspired her to question and take a closer look at her own beliefs.
“It was listening to numerous abortion stories that made me go from a staunch pro-life conservative Christian to a progressive reproductive justice advocate that believes everyone deserves the right to make decisions about their bodies in privacy.”
Asha shares that she is no longer a religious person, mainly because of the constant pressure she personally felt living up to others’ standards and rules. When she left her church, it was freeing to know that there isn’t just one right way to live life and that one belief shouldn’t dictate how everyone lives their lives, Asha shared.
“Spirituality and faith are beautiful things, and they are personal. But in America, they have become the basis for some horribly antiquated and frankly dangerous policies, including reproductive rights.”
From TV Hosting to Digital Media and Representation
Asha has always been passionate about working in the media.
Her career in journalism began when she landed her first major job out of college as a TV host for a national kids show in Australia, before moving to Los Angeles, California.
“I got to travel the world, interview a range of interesting people including some major celebrities, and really learned the ropes of what it takes to make a television show. As time went on and digital media blew up, I had to re-learn a whole new landscape, as many of my fellow hosts and producers were, but it has all been a valuable experience for me.”
Asha has worked for major networks as a host and producer for Nickelodeon, Disney, MTV, Fox, ABC, MSN.com, and Nine Network Australia.
With a successful TV journalism career, Asha always felt something was missing. She always gravitated to amplifying the stories of women and felt an itch to launch a platform to highlight untold stories.
“In the background was my mom’s passion for the stories of women, and in particular, stories of Indian women who defeated the odds or triumphed over evil somehow.”
Asha was born in the UK, raised in Australia, and currently resides in Los Angeles, California. Growing up to a family of immigrants from India, Asha shares that she has always felt like she had to straddle multiple cultures and worlds growing up.
“As an Indian family, whose grandparents migrated from India to Africa [and] whose parents migrated from East Africa to the UK and settling in Australia–the Indian diaspora was always something both my parents were drawn to naturally, as it was their story, the story of our family. We were never a huge Bollywood household, instead my mom loved watching Indian arthouse cinema, movies starring Shabana Azmi, and the like.”
Asha often felt like there were three versions of herself. Growing up as a ‘90s kid, she often sought to blend in with her white, Aussie peers. “I never fully felt like I fit in with any of those worlds, and often felt like I had to hide the Indian part of my life especially. Looking back on this now, I feel so sad that I didn’t embrace this in front of others.”
With news of senator Kamala Harris’ making history as the first South Asian and African-American woman U.S. Vice President, Asha believes that representation — especially in leadership roles — is more important than ever. It reflects the diverse perspectives, voices, and stories that are much-needed to be seen and heard, shared Asha.
“It means everything! And it’s not just Kamala Harris, but all the women of color now being chosen as part of Biden’s cabinet—the WOC, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ folks being elected in record numbers to local and state positions around the country. It sends a powerful message to people like me who have never been the ‘default’ image that we see in terms of leadership, politics that we in fact DO belong.”
‘Women Are Born to Change the World’
Asha believes that women are born to change the world. Her debut book is a testament to inspiring, diverse stories that help others feel seen, heard, and represented.
“I think women are born to change the world, which is why we see so many [global] movements, founded by women,” Asha said, citing Black Lives Matter, which was started by three black women. She also cited the Civil Rights movement and slavery abolishment, where women were part of the core leadership.
“Indigenous women have been on the frontlines and in leadership of the Water is Life movement. Predominantly, youth and women of color started the March for Our Lives against gun violence. I could go on.”
Asha acknowledges that due to patriarchal systems of power that have thrived throughout history, women have had no choice but to rise up and fight for freedoms that aren’t automatically given.
“The Reproductive Rights and justice battle in the US is part of the larger battle over control and autonomy. How many laws exist that seek to restrict a man’s body? Zero. How many battles do you see being waged over access to viagra on the same level as birth control? None. We need movements to push for change and give voice to those who have been silenced and marginalized.”
-Written by Monica Luhar for mornings with moni
To purchase and learn more about Asha Dahya’s book, “Today’s Wonder Women: Everyday Superheroes Who Are Changing the World,” visit https://todayswonderwomenbook.com/
You can follow Asha on Twitter at @ashadahya.