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    Category Archives: Women in the World

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    Women in art: Dame Rebecca West

    Rebecca west 700 x 700

    By Jasmine Mansbridge

    I first came across Dame Rebecca West (who here on after I will refer to as Rebecca), when I was reading the biography of the famous English writer H.G Wells, (think War of the Worlds and The Time Machine). I immediately found her intriguing and wanted to find out more about her.

    Rebecca was a woman ahead of her time. She was of the generation of women who had to fight for very basic rights, which we now accept today as the norm. Rebecca is remembered for her brilliant journalistic skills and as a writer of fine prose. She was a constant source of literary output for an impressive seven decades.

    The Early Years

    Rebecca West was born Cicely Isabel Fairfield in London in 1892. Her mother Isabella was a Scotswoman and an accomplished pianist. Her father, Charles Fairfield had spent his early years in the Army then went on to make and then lose a fortune in various business ventures. He was a great writer and one for political debate and Rebecca’s childhood home is said to have been a lively one, full of music, books and stimulating conversation. Rebecca was the youngest of the couple’s three daughters.

    When Rebecca was eight years old, her father left the family permanently. He travelled to Africa and upon his return died in a boarding house in Liverpool. Rebecca was twelve at the time and it was her mother who supported the family by training as a typist. Rebecca recalls this being humbling for her mother who had chosen marriage over the promise of successful musical career as a young woman. Essentially, Rebecca was raised by a single mother, an independent woman fighting against poverty and hardship. No doubt this upbringing laid a foundation for her future as an ardent champion of women’s issues.

    Rebecca’s family financial situation meant that she did not receive formal schooling until the age of sixteen, when she began attending the George Watson Ladies College in Scotland. Despite her difficult upbringing, she was intelligent and her lack of formal education did not affect her long-term opportunities. It was later on while Rebecca was training as an actress in London that she decided to take the name Rebecca West after she played the rebellious young heroine in the play Rosmersholm by Henrik IbsenFriends said Rebecca felt the name suited her more than the name given to her at birth. Rebecca’s attraction to the dramatic spilled out into her writing and her own life, and it has been said she could have done well as an actress if she had stuck with that career path.

    On her career

    Rebecca and her older sisters were vocally involved in the Women’s Suffragette Movement, participating in meetings and street protests. No doubt Rebecca’s own experiences were at the forefront of her mind when she got involved with the suffragette movement. In 1911, when she was nineteen, Rebecca began working as a journalist for the feminist publication Freewoman. It was in this position that she began developing her sharp writing style. Her pieces were evocative and well written as she sought to drum up support for the suffragette cause.

    Rebecca’s reputation as an ardent feminist and vocal spokesperson for feminist and socialist causes grew. She was known for speaking the truth as she saw it. She had a quick temper and a quick tongue. She was an opinionated critic, turning out essays and reviews for many different publications including, The New Republic, New York Herald Tribune, New York American, New Statesman, The Daily Telegraph, and many more newspapers and magazines.

    Through out her lifetime Rebecca was deeply interested in politics and how it affected ordinary people. She was determined to see through the agendas of the powers at be and to discuss these matters openly in her writing. This approach cost her many friendships over the years, but Rebecca was not one to be bought. She was fearless when it came to speaking the truth and did not hold back her opinions on the leaders and policy makers of her time.

    One person Rebecca did admire was Margaret Thatcher, not for Thatcher’s policies, but for Thatcher’s achievement in rising to the top of a male-dominated sphere. Rebecca’s first book was published in 1916. It was critical biography of the author Henry James. This was to be the first of many books.

    During the 1920s, Rebecca began a lifelong habit of visits to America to give lectures, meet artists, and get involved in the political scene. There, she befriended many significant figures of the day, including CIA founder Allen Dulles, Charlie Chaplin and Harold Ross of The New Yorker, just to name just a few. Her lifelong relationship with the United States was rewarded in 1948, when President Truman presented her with the Women’s Press Club Award for Journalism, calling her “the world’s best reporter”.

    Rebecca’s writing brought her financial success and with her considerable wealth, she purchased a Rolls Royce and a grand country estate, Ibstone House, in southern England. Some of Rebecca’s most notable career achievements were the coverage of the Nuremberg Military Trials between 1945 and 1946; her election as a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1950; and travelling to South Africa in 1960 to report on the Apartheid in a series of articles for the Sunday Times. 

    It seems that during her lifetime, if there was a major event happening Rebecca saw it first hand if she could, and then wrote about it. In 1959 she was honoured for her services to Britain and made a Dame. Those who knew Rebecca described her as dynamic, tenacious, intelligent, intimidating and loyal, with a brilliant wit and way with words. She was known for embellishing the truth and for never letting the truth get in the way of a good story.

    Relationships and family

    It was a scathing review that Rebecca wrote for Freewoman in 1912 about the aforementioned H.G Wells’ book Marriage that first caught Well’s attention. Wells was at the height of his fame as an author and extended an invitation to Rebecca to lunch at his home. The two writers eventually became lovers and their ten-year tumultuous affair produced a son, Anthony West, who was born on 4 August 1914.

    Wells was himself married, although his was an ‘open’ marriage, as he was testing out his own theories of a ‘Utopia’ where relationships did not need to be monogamous. This added a challenge to his and Rebecca’s relationship as she had their son to look after and that made it hard for her to maintain her independence and keep writing. Wells cared for her financially, and at one point he deposited her in a cottage in the countryside to be visited at his convenience.

    This time in Rebecca’s life was an enormous challenge for her, having a child as an unmarried mother typically carried a huge burden of shame and prejudice. Their relationship eventually ended as a result. They still remained friends, consulting each other about their various writing and other projects. Wells was an important figure though out Rebecca’s lifetime and their friendship lasted until his death in 1946.

    After her relationship ended with Wells, Rebecca was linked romantically with several other men of influence. She eventually married in 1930, at the age of 37, to a banker, Henry Maxwell Andrews. There are various accounts of their relationship, many suggesting that theirs was a marriage largely based on formality. Rebecca was free to travel and write throughout the marriage and was tolerant of her husband’s extramarital relationships until his death in 1968. Although there are also suggestions that Rebecca herself also enjoyed liaisons whilst being married to Andrews.

    Anthony was to be Rebecca’s only child and there are various reports on what was ultimately a strained adult relationship. Some well publicised grievances by Anthony include his mother’s insistence that he call her Aunty during his early childhood years, (this was due to her sensitivity at times to being an unmarried mother) and her ‘abandonment’ of him for her career and travels at different stages of his life. Anthony followed in both his parent’s footsteps and went on to be a talented author. It was in writing his father’s biography, H.G Wells: Aspects of a Life, in 1984, that he ultimately wounded Rebecca, drawing attention to the flaws he saw in her, but at the same time idolising his father and overlooking Wells’ obvious mistakes as a parent.

    I think it interesting to note that in some ways, little has progressed for women as parents since Rebecca’s time. Rebecca was subject to extra criticism for her parenting, purely because she was a woman and the expectations of what she should give up were different than the expectations on Wells. Wells was free to keep his career as his number one priority, without question or criticism by his son. Women of today are still often made to feel guilty over decisions about their work/home life balance, decisions that men rarely have to consider.

    When researching Rebecca, there is much made of her relationship choices. The fact is that she was one of the first women to go ahead and acknowledge that woman also had a need for sex. That it wasn’t just all about the man. It was the early 1900s and she was experimenting with the unchartered territory of the life of a liberated woman. Her and Wells were both wanting to see how far they could push the old boundaries of traditional relationships.

    I do feel like some writers have focussed far too much on this part of Rebecca’s life, rather than on her lifetime of extraordinary achievements as a writer.

    Like Rebecca, her two older sisters also went on to achieve notable things. The oldest and best educated of the three, Leticia, studied on a scholarship and became one of the first fully qualified female doctors in Britain, later also training as a barrister. Winifred, the middle sister, married Norman Macleod, Principal Assistant Secretary in the Admiralty, who eventually became director general of Greenwich Hospital. The three sisters were united in their work for the suffragette cause during their lifetime.

    Rebecca was known to be a loyal friend, with the capacity to make those at the centre of her attention feel they were the most important people in a room. She sung the praises of those she admired, while equally being caustic about those whom she disapproved of.

    Her capacity to love and feel generously and fiercely came through in every aspect of her life and her work, and her writing shows her deep understanding of the human psyche and her curiosity about the world around her.

    Later life

    As Rebecca grew older, she turned her sights increasingly to broader political and social issues. She was taken by human nature and it’s propensity to inflict violence and injustice upon itself. She had always found people themselves an endless source of fascination, and her writing reveals this.

    Proving herself to be a compassionate person, during World War II Rebecca housed Yugoslav refugees in the spare rooms of her blacked-out manor. She turned the grounds into a small dairy farm and vegetable plot, agricultural pursuits that continued there long after the war had ended.

    She also continued to travel widely during World War II, collecting material for her books. These trips added to her reputation for being fearless. In 1936–38, she made three trips to Yugoslavia, a country she came to love, Her non-fiction masterpiece Black Lamb and Grey Falcon is the sum of her impressions from these trips. I read this book myself while researching Rebecca. Her descriptive writing style is beautifully engaging and in the honest, non-politically-correct tone necessary for authors of our own time. The reader is drawn in from the start and it is easy to understand why she was such a popular author. Rebecca was one of the first female writers to write in the travel book genre.

    Rebecca loved to travel and did so extensively, well into her later years. In 1966 and 1969, she undertook two long journeys to Mexico, becoming fascinated by the indigenous culture of the country and its population. She stayed with friends in Mexico City and elsewhere if she could. Even into her late 70s she continued travelling, she visited Lebanon, Venice, Monte Carlo, and always went back to the United States. She gathered together a large number of travel impressions and wrote tens of thousands of words for a volume similar to Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, tentatively titled Survivors in Mexico. The work, however, was never finished, and only saw publication posthumously in 2003.

    Rebecca eventually moved into London, to an apartment next door to the Iranian Embassy and across from Hyde Park. She kept up a very active social life, making friends with many of the influential people of her time. Actors, directors, writers, artists and scholars all enjoyed her company.

    She wrote at steady pace, and as she got on in years, did not let poor health or difficult personal circumstances affect her output.  She continued to pen masterful reviews for the Sunday Telegraph, publishing the The Birds Fall Down in 1966 and then overseeing the film version of the story by the BBC in 1978.

    The last work published in her lifetime was 1900 in 1982. 1900 explored the last year of Queen Victoria’s long reign, which was a watershed in many cultural and political respects.

    Rebecca spent a lot of time trying to write an autobiography, without coming to closure on it. I personally think this is a great shame as the biographies written about Rebecca, (by Victoria Glendinning in 1987, Carl Rollyson in 1996, and Lorna Gibb 2013), all come with varied reviews. It seems that an autobiography by Rebecca herself would have been a truly insightful read.

    In her final years Rebecca started many stories without finishing them and much of her work from the late phase of her life was published posthumously.  Family MemoriesThis Real NightCousin RosamundThe Only Poet, and the travel book Survivors in Mexico in 2003. Unfinished works from her early writing period, notably Sunflower (1986) and The Sentinel (2001) were also published after her death, so that about one-third of all her work was actually published by posthumously.

    West suffered from failing eyesight and high blood pressure and by the late 1970s she had become increasingly frail. Her last months were mostly spent in bed, sometimes delirious, sometimes lucid, and she complained that she was dying too slowly. She died on 15 March 1983 at the age of 89.

    Takeaways from Rebecca’s story

    • You can take the challenges in your life and turned them into opportunities. The difficulties of Rebecca’s upbringing gave her the cause and passion to be a champion for the rights of women.
    • The harsh reality that the balancing act of being a working parent and a pursuing a career might not always be achievable, and that there is a risk that relationships and family may suffer if work is number one.
    • Women still have a way to go when it comes to equality, most women and men still have different expectations when it comes to work/home life commitments.
    • You can live a full, productive life right until the end of one’s life. Rebecca published a book the year before she died.
    • You should never stop doing the things you are passionate about, Rebecca continued to travel and write well into her later years.
    • Being popular isn’t as important as fearlessly telling the truth. The world needs more truth tellers.

    For more about Dame Rebecca West, see this review, this biography or this interview .

    Jasmine Mansbridge is a painter and mum to five kids. She regularly blogs about the intersection of creative work and family life at www.jasminemansbridge.com, and you can also find her on Instagram @jasminemansbridge.


    Tags: artist, Regular Columns, writer
    Posted by: Emma Clark
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    Women in the World: A Follow Up with Lara Cameron

    By Joanna Francis

    You’ll remember that late last year, we caught up with Lara Cameron of Melbourne fabric design studio Ink & Spindle, before she took off on a study tour to Nepal. Lara was part of a tour organised by Steph Woollard, founder of Seven Women, a not-for-profit working with women with disabilities. Today, Lara is joining us again to share with us a little about her experiences in Nepal (illustrated with some of her photos!).

    Lara, welcome home! Can you remind us of the purpose of your trip to Nepal, and tell us about where you visited and what you did?

    Where do I start?! The whole trip felt like a lifetime worth of experiences jam packed into a mere 3 weeks! I guess generally the purpose of the trip was to learn about fair trade enterprises and production in Nepal. We visited a whole host of different fair trade businesses (felt workshops, silversmiths, craft producers, up-cyclers). We learnt about their processes, their challenges, who they employed and how they were making a difference in Nepalese society.

    We also spent lots of time getting to know the Nepalese people, learning about their way of life, both in cities and rural areas.  Nepalese people are renowned for being friendly and cheerful and that definitely seems to be true. They have an infectiously warm and positive nature. Their lives don’t revolve around working, but instead they are centred around family and community. Although these people might be ‘poor’ by western standards they seem truly happier. This might sound flippant and naive but it really does seem that the simpler your life is the happier you can be. As humans (particularly Westerners) we find it so hard to be content, but having less opportunities, lofty ambitions or obsession with material goods can be somewhat liberating.


    Can you tell us a little about meeting the women involved and seeing how Seven Women is supporting disadvantaged women?

    Seven Women is basically set up to empower women who are disadvantaged or living with a disability. Steph is passionate about establishing business models that promote self reliance, rather than long term dependence on external aid. Her original centre EPSA used to make a lot of felt craft goods that Steph would wholesale here in Australia. Now they wholesale goods to the local market and are functioning independently, which is great.

    Steph has just recently established a new Seven Women centre which is where we spent a lot of time during our trip. The new centre can house up to 10 women and also has a workspace for even more women and a shop front (plus a rooftop terrace and a veggie patch!). We had the great privilege of being able to assist in fitting out the new house and also meeting a lot of the women who live and work there. They are absolutely gorgeous, warm hearted people and a joy to work with.


    photo by Kim Cartmell

    Nepal4 Nepal6

    Is there someone that you met that particularly inspired you, or shared their story with you of how their life had been changed by their involvement?

    Well Steph is definitely an inspiring individual, but I have to say I was also very inspired by a social entrepreneur we were introduced to named Sanu Kaji. Sanu established the Foundation for Sustainable Technologies and is possibly the most endearing, enthusiastic and inspirational person we met over there! Sanu has dedicated the latter part of his career designing sustainable fuel alternatives for the Nepalese people, in particular his unique “Briquettes” which are made from a compressed combination of waste paper and biomass (sawdust, grass, leaves or rice husks etc). 1.5kg of his briquettes is the equivalent to 5-8kg of timber in terms of cooking capacity, and he is training people to make their own.


     What were some of the obvious challenges in working in an international context like this?

    Gosh, where do I start? Communication is an obvious one. There are very few people in Nepal who have fluent English skills, so explaining the finer details of things is definitely a challenge. The Nepalese people also have that tendency to never say no. Very frustrating when you’re trying to figure out if or when something can be done! Culturally there are challenges too – they can have a different perspective on what constitutes “good quality”; Steph has worked very closely with her team to make sure they’re producing what a Western market would find acceptable. The other massive challenge is rolling blackouts! Most places in Kathmandu only have power about half of the day, and sometimes that allocation is largely at night time! This definitely affects productivity and turn around times – no wonder Western customers get flabbergasted when something takes 3 months longer to produce than they expected!

    Did you have the opportunity to share some of what you’ve learnt through developing your own creative business here in Melbourne?

    I did! I think that was my favourite part actually – getting to work alongside the women and teach them things! I went over there with a prototype for a new product – laptop sleeves made from handmade Nepalese felt. The felt they work with is just so lovely and textured and beautiful in its own right, so I thought that we should develop a product that really showcased this. I found myself sitting on the floor of the new Seven Women centre, surrounded by these cheerful and cheeky women and bits of felt and scissors and chalk and patterns, laughing at my poor Nepalese skills and our haphazard communication, generally having a ball. That was great.


    Did that experience change or have any impact on the way you view your business practices here?

    It did make me appreciate what we have here and how much easier it can be to produce something locally. After seeing first hand how difficult it can be to source the right things and communicate effectively to have a quality product made in a country where “quality” has a different meaning… I feel very lucky that we have the ability to produce in-house and don’t have to rely on overseas labour to do what we do.

    From an emotional/personal perspective I’d like to think that witnessing the Nepalese way of life changed my perspective on life here a bit. I’d like to have a bit more relaxed pace of life, feel less like I need to constantly be keeping up with trends and what everyone else is doing, and focus more on home and family and friendships to give life meaning.

    Will you have any continuing involvement with Seven Women?

    I definitely plan to. I still need to ensure the new product line gets produced properly, and I’d definitely like to keep working with Steph on her product range – either hands on or just providing feedback and advice from time to time.

    If you’d like more information about the work of Seven Women or their study tours to Nepal, please go to their website to find out more. And thanks Lara for sharing your experiences with us.

    Joanna Francis spends most of her time hanging out with her two year old son. But she also works for a children’s foundation and has recently started her own little business making baby quilts. In the past, Joanna has worked as an aid worker in several developing countries, and is passionate about the rights of women and children. You can visit her and her blog at www.miettehandmade.com


    Posted by: Joanna Francis
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    Women in the World: A Study Tour to Nepal!

    By Joanna Francis

    For our final Women in the World post for the year, we’re going on a little journey. A journey from an old factory in the Melbourne suburb of Kensington to the cities and remote villages of Nepal. Our travelling companion is Lara Cameron, a name that many of you will no doubt be familiar with. Lara is the co-founder of Ink & Spindle, the wonderful Melbourne boutique textile studio. Ink & Spindle produce beautiful screen printed textiles which are designed and printed by hand in an ethical and sustainable manner.

    Lara Cameron (left) with Ink & Spindle co-owner Tegan Rose


    In a matter of weeks, Lara will be boarding a plane and heading to Neap to take part in a study tour run by Stephanie Woollard, founder of Seven Women, a not for profit organization that employs disadvantaged women to make handcrafted items that are sold in Australia. I asked both Lara and Stephanie about the trip and the organization and here’s a little of what they had to say:

    “I first met Stephanie at a different fundraising event where I heard her speak about the upcoming trip. My first thought was that it was something  that I definitely “should” do, but I was too intimidated by the prospect to apply – I knew it would involve stepping right out of my comfort zone!”, says Lara.

    “But, after thinking about it for a while, considering how great an opportunity it would be, I put forward my application and was accepted to join the group.

    “At the very end of 2012 Steph is taking our group of 15 participants on a study tour of fair trade enterprises. We will be meeting some amazing people who are making a difference over there and also the people whose lives have been so positively changed by what Steph has created. Steph has established her own centre – the Seven Women Skills Training Centre where we’ll be helping out for a few days with individual roles.

    photo by Kim Cartmell


    “I’m simultaneously excited and terrified about this trip. Having never been to a developing country before, this is going to be such an incredible, eye opening and challenging experience. Since sustainable and ethical practices are the foundation of everything that we do at Ink & Spindle, I’m really interested to see how what we see and learn over there can be applied to my own business. I am also excited about the fact that there are opportunities for me professionally as a designer to help Steph with what she is doing.

    “Whilst in Nepal I’ll be taking on a small product development role, assisting Steph in expanding her range with some products that I feel confident will be well received here in Australia. I’ve worked for many years in the local design/interiors/handmade industry and I feel that I have a good grasp on what products would be viable to produce and would sell successfully here. If all goes well these products will hopefully become a part of the core range and be produced on an ongoing basis, which will provide ongoing employment for the women involved in Seven Women. I’d also be open to assisting in the design process in future if my ideas prove to be helpful!”

    After travelling to Nepal in 2005, Stephanie Woollard returned to Australia and felt compelled to help some of the most marginalised and disadvantaged women living in the capital, Kathmandu.

    photo courtesy of Seven Women


    “I feel a moral responsibility to work with those less fortunate creating opportunities enabling them to improve theirs”, Stephanie says. “When I met these women they had nothing. There was an opportunity for capacity building and empowerment. I envisaged these women enabling themselves to raise their standard of living by having someone to help them sell their handicrafts here in Australia. I paid for the initial training and worked on design with the women. When I came back to Australia we established a group at my university, La Trobe, to sell these products and raise awareness about Fair Trade. The group grew from three volunteers to over 15 passionate, committed students whose actions have a direct impact on the lives of the women in Nepal.

    “The team of volunteers that has been created in Australia has done many markets around Victoria and the goods are now also stocked in several retailers and online. 100 per cent of the profits have gone back to the women in Nepal. This has enabled the tin shed to be knocked down and allowed a space for a women’s skills training centre to be built. It has grown from seven women to now, just over 120. The initial seven women now employ others without disabilities. This has challenged the stigma in society. Their hope is to be able to benefit the lives of other women who experience the same hardships they have endured.

    photo courtesy of Seven Women


    “Women in Nepal have generally been subordinate to men in virtually every aspect of life. Nepal was a rigidly patriarchal society. Women’s relative status, however, varied from one ethnic group to another. The senior female member played a commanding role within the family by controlling resources, making crucial planting and harvesting decisions, and determining the expenses and budget allocations. Yet women’s lives remained centered on their traditional roles taking care of most household chores, fetching water and animal fodder, and doing farm work. Their standing in society was mostly contingent on their husbands’ and parents’ social and economic positions. They had limited access to markets, productive services, education, health care, and local government. Malnutrition and poverty hit women hardest.

    “Female children usually were given less food than male children, especially when the family experienced food shortages. Women usually worked harder and longer than men. By contrast, women from high-class families had maids to take care of most household chores and other menial work and thus worked far less than men or women in lower socioeconomic groups. The economic contribution of women was substantial, but largely unnoticed because their traditional role was taken for granted. When employed, their wages normally were 25 percent less than those paid to men. In most rural areas, their employment outside the household generally was limited to planting, weeding, and harvesting. In urban areas, they were employed in domestic and traditional jobs, as well as in the government sector, mostly in low-level positions.”

    The work that Seven Women is doing is helping to slowly change this situation, by giving marginalized women opportunities that they didn’t previously have. Over 450 women have now been trained and are becoming self sufficient.

    photo by Kim Cartmell


    If you are interested in helping, you can visit the online store and buy some of the products made by the women. Alternatively, you can organize a fundraising event and book Stephanie to speak. If like Lara, you’d like to get a little closer, you can also join Steph on a study tour.

    We’ll be catching up again with Lara in 2013 to hear about the trip and her ongoing involvement. Until then, wishing you all a lovely and uplifting New Year…

    Joanna Francis spends most of her time hanging out with her 23 month old son. But she also works for a children’s foundation and has recently started her own little business making baby quilts. In the past, Joanna has worked as an aid worker in several developing countries, and is passionate about the rights of women and children. You can visit her and her blog at www.miettehandmade.com

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    Women in the World: the Stepping Stones and Multicultural Connections Programs

    By Joanna Francis

    Around the world, there are countless organisations working with women by using creativity as a pathway out of poverty. Today though, I thought we’d look a little closer to home. What about women who have arrived here in Australia as refugees, who have brought with them a multitude of skills and resources but face cultural barriers and a lack of access to resources? Recently I came across two wonderful groups that exist in Melbourne…. the Stepping Stones program, run by the Ecumenical Migration Centre (a branch of the Brotherhood of St Lawrence) and the Multicultural Connection Centre.

    The Stepping Stones program offers mentoring, training and support to help refugee and migrant women develop new skills and increase their participation in business and the community.

    One woman who participated in the program is Luz Restrepo. Luz is a Colombian woman who came to Australia 2 years ago as an asylum seeker and has faced huge challenges including a lack of English and a consequent lack of identity and self esteem. In an effort to improve her English, improve her wellbeing and help others in the same situation, she organised a group – the Multicultural Connection Centre – to create a space where migrant women could come together, share their stories, improve their English and reduce their feelings of isolation.

    The group has evolved to focus on women meeting regularly to create handmade crafts which they are then selling at markets around Melbourne. This allows them to not only earn some income for themselves and their families, but to improve their self esteem, continue to build relationships and a sense of community.  I met some of these women recently… Ler Paw from Burma, Saida from Rwanda, Lakpa from Tibet and Monica from Pakistan.

    Each has endured much hardship in the their lives, and many challenges adjusting to a new life in a new country. But each one was finding that the skills they  had learnt through their involvement, as well as the friendship and opportunities provided were helping to improve both their lives and those of their families.

    Speaking to Luz and the women she was working with helped remind me that each of these women has come to Australia with their own skills and experiences and identity, and that the challenges faced here often diminish that sense of self worth. But that the benefits of meeting with others in similar situations and increasing their own sense of confidence and independence are huge.

    Stepping Stones is looking for mentors for the women participating in their program. If you’re interested, you can learn more here.

    Similarly, Luz is looking for funding for materials, as well as creative women who might be able to assist with advice or training, particularly in making their craft stalls more financially viable. If you are interested, you can contact get in touch with me (details below) and I can put you in touch with Luz.

    Joanna Francis spends most of her time hanging out with her 21 month old son. But she also works for a children’s foundation and has recently started her own little business making baby quilts. In the past, Joanna has worked as an aid worker in several developing countries, and is passionate about the rights of women and children. You can visit her and her blog at www.miettehandmade.com

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