I had the pleasure of attending Africause’s International Women’s Day Event on March 8 at the VU Metro with diverse background of over 50 women participated. A selfie station, a variety of refreshments and beverages, and a stunning setup were all present in the venue space. To begin the event, Dr Berhan acknowledged the traditional custodians of the land, while Africause Vice President Dr Irene Bouzzo welcomed all guests with a cake cutting. Victoria Police Superintendent Zorka Dunstan, a delightful representative from VicPol, talked about what it’s like for women to work in a male dominated workplace, where men
form the majority. The annual celebration of International Women’s Day serves as a platform for the women’s rights movement to highlight issues like gender equality, violence, and abuse against women. Recognising the social, political, cultural, and economic achievements of women is essential and it was captured by the panellist. More wonderful women from various cultural backgrounds began sharing their experiences and stories, among them Ms Loza Tsegaye, (Ethiopian) Ms Fathia Hassan (Somali), Ms Doum Bol (Sth Sudan), and Mrs Mary Boardman (Sth Africa).
Speaking openly about the hardships refugee and migrant women encountered while trying to find refuge in Australia, adjust to a new environment, and deal with cultural differences, language barriers, prejudices, and racism, to name a few takes courage. It is truly inspiring
to see how these women overcame their obstacles and used their work and passion to support and give back to their communities to live positive lives. Embracing equity served as this year’s International Women’s Day theme. The term “equity” refers to the attribute of being impartial and fair. To ensure fairness, strategies and measures must frequently be
available to make up for the historical and social disadvantages faced by women, which prevent them from competing on an even playing field with men. Equality results from equity. What does equity resemble? For Loza, equity is about being conscious of how we see ourselves as women and how we see one another. For Mary, equity provides a reason for achievements while maintaining hope.
Two of the main topics discussed by the panellists were the willingness to work within the
community and maintaining the resilience to stay motivated and passionate.
Language barriers were indeed a frequent topic of conversation, but with the community’s
and families’ support, Fathia studied immigration law and Doum studied community
development to give back to and assist their communities.
Ms. Loza briefly discussed the gender roles that are typical of families with multicultural backgrounds, where men are expected to do things and women are expected to do most house chores. This inspired Loza to work in the community and combat those stereotypes so that her future daughters would not be constrained. Ms. Elham Hassan Ali is an internship student working at Africause. A young woman with great potential.
On Women’s International Day, Mary’s story as a practicing lawyer was shared, and it was very inspirational. She talked about how her mother served as an inspiration to her and taught her how to overcome obstacles in her path. Growing up in South Africa, she joined five other African lawyers as a solicitor when she was 21 years old, and at age 25, she was appointed a magistrate. She migrated to Australia in 1998, and in 2004, she opened her own law firm. The refusal of a bank loan was a hardship, she had to deal with, but it didn’t deter her dream journey. She bought a computer and keyboard with her own credit card and $3,00 to launch her law practice from home. She started her practice not only to represent clients in court but also to help mothers who lack equal access to the legal system because of the hardships they confront. She quotes that a woman should never underestimate the obstacles she faces because they can be overcome by her own strength and that roses can grow anywhere. Overall, the IWD event was fantastic; seeing women from various cultural backgrounds come together to discuss their common experiences and aspirations for the next generation
of women was truly inspiring.