More than a hundred women enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast event at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) this morning to celebrate and mark International Women’s Day with its 2018 theme of #PressforProgress.
The emcee for the event, Mimi, who has utilised the services of the ASRC’s business and women’s empowerment programs, set the tone for the day. ‘This is a place where I feel safe and I feel understood without explaining, and I feel welcomed,’ she said.
Alongside dance performances by women from Ethiopia, Papua New Guinea and Arabic speaking countries, guest speakers at the event included the Mayor Of Maribyrnong, Councillor Cuc Lam; the founder and CEO of SisterWorks, Luz Restrepo; and CEO of Australian Multicultural Community Services, Elizabeth Drozd. Each spoke with eloquence about what the day means to them, the value of family and children, and their own lived experience as refugees.
Almost forty years ago, Councillor Lam arrived in Australia from Vietnam. ‘I used to work two or three jobs at once. It took me six years to get my BA. But I made it. I came home, sitting down on the floor in a housing commission flat, and studied for my thesis,’ she stated.
‘But my story is not unusual. Many women have come here as a refugee or migrant and have successfully settled. They have shown strength, courage and bravery.’
Luz Restrepo arrived from Colombia in 2010 seeking political asylum with scant English, no Australian connections and very little money. ‘When we produce our own money we have the power; and we need to give the opportunity to all the new Australian women who are arriving in this amazing country to learn how to work in Australia.’ She went on to talk about the power of women working together.
‘The power of women changes the world. It is our women’s time. It is not the men’s time. It’s ours. It’s women working together,’ she stated to applause.
In 1982, Elizabeth Drozd arrived in Australia under the special humanitarian program for people fleeing the communist regime in Poland.
‘What I brought with me when I came here is at least five suitcases of dreams and aspirations,’ Drozd said.
Reflecting on her own experiences, she also offered some resonant words for the women in attendance: not to self-limit by setting your own boundaries, and the need to find a support network and surround yourself with ‘good and nice people’.
Helen Reddy’s iconic song, I Am Woman became a backdrop for the day, first performed by women from the ASRC’’s Innovation Hub. It did not take long for all women in the predominantly female room to stand and sing along to the famous lyrics of ‘I am strong … I am invincible … I am woman.’
The lyrics would return in the closing remarks of several speakers, but perhaps most movingly at the end of the speech by Hub member, Salwa Sharabah. Salwa, who arrived from Syria two years ago, spoke in language, through tears, assisted by an interpreter to say, ‘I stand before you today as an immigrant woman having escaped my beloved, wounded Syria city. I stand with an open heart in wishing you all peace, security and stability.’
Veronica Kurufher, lead organiser for the event and cooordinator of the ASRC’s Women’s Empowerment Program, was thrilled to collaborate with other women to help stage the IWD event and said, ‘To be able to do this here at the ASRC where we have women of all nations here makes it truly an International Womens Day celebration.’ Creative work by women from ASRC’s Dandenong Centre and SisterWorks was also on display and obtainable by donation.
There is no question that today women at the ASRC roared in numbers too big to ignore.
Join us today to stay up to date with stories from the Women’s Empowerment Program and other news from the ASRC.Leave a reply →