I started to learn about women’s economic empowerment through my own experience as a political asylum seeker woman in Australia with little English, hardly any money, few connections and without work opportunities. For me, my key questions were how to pay my bills by using my existing skills and how to give back to my new society, which had given me the chance to start again.

Today, nearly eight years after I arrived in this amazing country full of opportunities, I continue to learn about women’s economic empowerment by supporting other migrants to move into work. Together we are building SisterWorks – a social enterprise that aims to support the most vulnerable migrant women so they can support themselves by learning how to build a sustainable business whilst at the same time establishing themselves in their communities.

SisterWorks’ tagline is ‘Work Empowers Women’ – here are my five reasons why that is so true:

1. You do not empower others; each woman empowers herself – we as society must provide her the opportunities to start.

Not everybody learns in the same way and at the same time. Each woman, in her own time, according to her own circumstances, will find her own answers. The key is how to create these opportunities. We, as a society, need to create the community inclusion, the space and the opportunities to build capacity so woman can access these resources and make the connections needed to empower herself.

2. She needs to feel useful, providing for herself, for her family, for her community. This gives her a purpose to move forward.

Despite different cultures, ages and backgrounds, women can find common things that connect them with their new society. Family and community are the common things that each of us can share, no matter where we are from. To make it happens each of us needs to learn to not judge other ways of doing the same task, not to impose our own values and respect that everyone is different. This is the magic when the community is building something together that makes sense for everyone.

3. Before making money to pay her bills, she needs to know how to make friends, how to engage with the Australian society and how to make connections that open opportunities. 

Creating a network around her is the best way to find the opportunities she is looking for. She will overcome her own barriers and find her pathway. But these connections take time, persistence and passion. These connections are a small achievement and will help to encourage her to continue the process. This is why SisterWorks is looking for business opportunities where women can have a quick income in the short term. You just need to connect her with a common purpose, giving her the initial resources. She will then find her way to move forward.

4. The power to empower each other: Together, with empathy we are strong.

Rather than a hierarchal organisation where everybody is waiting for the leaders’ decisions, we need to continue to build organisations that are open to people learning from each other. Life is an exchange of knowledge and experiences. We must always be open to learning new ways to make things happen. Let’s learn from the diversity and difference – encourage her to engage with the reality of other people who share the same land and the same sky but not necessarily the same mother tongue or culture.

5. The future is written in the present. Let’s make things happen today for tomorrow through supporting migrant mums.

I strongly believe that mums are the core of the family. If we support them to support themselves through work opportunities this impacts not only them but also their families, the future of their children, their communities and our society.

Plus, by supporting migrant women to move beyond the welfare system, these resources can also be allocated to new families. To see how you can help make a difference please visit our website www.sisterworks.org.au or send me a message directly (luz@sisterworks.org.au).

Categories: Luz Restrepo

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