AMES Annual Women’s Camp 2016

AMES camp participants

AMES camp participants

Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health’s Education Program was yet again facilitated in Mount Eliza, at the annual AMES Women’s Camp with 90 migrant, refugee, and asylum seeker women, who came to settle in Victoria from around the globe. Most of them came from countries experiencing difficulty due to war and prosecution and an important aspect of our approach was to make women feel safe, welcomed and respected.

MCWH’s team worked tirelessly for months preparing for this important event. Our staff sourced all relevant written resources in the first language of the women attending, made hundreds of printed copies, sorted them by health topic and made individual folders for every single woman as their personal health reference guide. To make this day special and memorable, we also approached many agencies for donations and prepared show bags with goodies to say women thank you to women for their participation, putting smiles on their faces and making them feel appreciated.

Donated contents for goodie bags

Donated contents for goodie bags

MCWH staff worked for months to prepare resources

MCWH staff worked for months to prepare resources

Despite the great effort and heavy workload, the reward of seeing women’s faces lit up with amusement and the happiness they felt in reading information in their own language and being able to ask questions and learn about aspects of women’s health they never had opportunity to learn before, makes the hard work worthwhile.

It was so exciting to see the richness of different cultures gathered in one place where religion, skin colour, language, culture, age etc were not as important as the fact that women felt so comfortable and safe in the women-only environment- where everybody looked and talked differently, yet we all understood each other perfectly. The language of respect, acceptance and appreciation is universal and understood equally by everyone, no matter your background.

Our brilliant educators discussed many aspects of women’s health including breast, cervical and bowel cancer, contraception and family planning, preventative programs such as breast screening and the Pap test, menstruation, menopause, osteoporosis, STI’s, healthy lifestyle and healthy relationships, hygiene and heart health. Women enjoyed learning through our very unique model of health education where each women felt they were an active participant and felt comfortable asking questions they never had opportunity to ask before without fear or discomfort of being  seen as ignorant or uneducated.

Our educators made sure to break up the ice talking about, sometimes, embarrassing topics by making some jokes, using educational tools, such as banana model to teach them proper use of condom, or Pap smear Victoria reproductive organs aprons and similar, which really made women laugh and relax quite a bit.


BHE educator Manasi preparing for a health session

After all day intensive engagement with almost 90 women covering heaps of issues and responding to so many questions, we felt exhausted, yet so satisfied in knowing how big a difference we made and that the information we shared with women may put them and their families on a much healthier life path and possibly save some lives. It was definitely worth doing it!

Amira Rahmanovic 
MCWH Health Education Manager


One voice

Jessica Lea DFID flickrPreventing the Practice of FGM/C in Primary Schools. Image by Jessica Lea/UK DFID

We’ve all been guilty of it: voicing our dissatisfaction and anger at the things that are unfair and unjust and then proceeding to do nothing about them. Or, perhaps worse, trying to do something about them in a way that turns out to subvert, undermine or undo some of the good work already being done to fix the problem.

An issue such as female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is something that usually incites feelings of horror and anger among those not affected directly by the practice. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Injustices, particularly those that are an abuse of human rights, need loud and visible activism. But it’s how we go about acting on our words that really counts, especially when our actions impact on people experiencing those abuses. When the issue is as complex as FGM/C, it would be wise to do some homework and find out about what is being, and could be, done to prevent and eradicate the practice.

The most recent International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM marked 13 years of activism and campaigning to ensure that FGM/C remains on the global agenda. During this time, in Australia and internationally, there have been countless initiatives that, together, have laid a solid foundation for generational change. Much of what we know now has been the result of the tireless efforts of women advocates from communities where FGM/C is practiced, community organisations, policy makers, governments and legal institutions around the world. A truly collaborative affair.

While there is still much work to be done, especially in countries of migration like ours, the international evidence suggests that we are still in a good position to know what can work in helping to prevent the practice. Involving the whole community and fostering women’s leadership are both key markers of success and this includes acknowledging the huge amount of prevention work already being done, often quietly and modestly, within the communities where FGM/C exists.

Whether you call it ‘being on the same page’ or ‘singing off the same song sheet’, it takes a united stance to ensure that change does happen. The National Standards Framework for FGM/C-related Educational Resources is one such song sheet, highlighting the best resources currently available for community education. Many of the resources have been developed by and in collaboration with women and their communities, so we can confidently use them as a platform for change, without hitting too many wrong notes along the way.

MCWH goes to Mt Eliza

camp AMES

Last Saturday, MCWH had the opportunity to take part in a community education program for immigrant and refugee women run by AMES (the largest provider of humanitarian settlement, education, training and employment services for refugees and newly arrived migrants). As part of their annual three-day camp, MCWH bilingual educators delivered four fantastic sessions on women’s wellbeing and sexual and reproductive health to around 100 women from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds including Iranian, Afghani, Iraqi, Chinese, Indian and Burmese.

The camp was an excellent opportunity to reach recently arrived women, most of whom had never participated in health education programs like this before. Women spoke of their knowledge and beliefs around certain health topics, and were able to ask questions and clarify their understanding of the information presented, specifically in relation to family planning and contraception, and breast and cervical health. Fantastic models, charts and other materials were used to support this process, which encouraged lots of group interaction and engagement.

At the end of the sessions, MCWH provided each woman with a showbag containing multilingual information, complimentary hygiene products, stationary and a football (physical activity is an integral part of healthy living!). We would like to sincerely thank the sponsors who generously donated products to make our gift to each woman so special: Marie Stopes, John Batman Group, Johnson & Johnson, Intandem, AFL Victoria and Parks Victoria.

As a result of the positive feedback from the sessions, MCWH has been invited to conduct more in-depth education sessions with AMES students in an upcoming project in Melbourne. Thanks to all the participants, our wonderful educators, Elizabeth Mazeyko and Manasi Wagh-Nikam, and to all the AMES staff involved, especially to Amrit Kaur, who provided a well-thought-out program and wonderful support and hospitality. We look forward to working with AMES in the future!



Bilingual education about palliative care is opening doors to better health

MCWH has played a key role in raising awareness across Victoria about the benefits of Palliative Care, through the Culturally Responsive Palliative Care Community Education project, in partnership with Palliative Care Victoria and the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria. For the past few months Bilingual Health Educators have been visiting community groups to deliver information in Turkish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Maltese, Italian and Vietnamese and we’ve had a wonderful response.

Mr. Danh Duc Tran, the Chair of the Vietnamese Senior Citizens Group of Hume, took the time to send our Health Education Team feedback from participants who:

… talked very highly about your way of delivering the topic: culturally correct and appropriate when addressing the audience (being elderly Vietnamese); self-confident, showing mastery of the topic, excellent communication skills, and good emphasises on important points. They do wish you all the best, and send you a big thank you.

Having learned about Palliative Care, the Vietnamese Senior Citizens Group of Hume have now booked MCWH for an additional 6 information sessions covering a new health topic each month. Mr. Tran said:

Educational seminars on health topics such as what you are providing are desperately needed by our members … most of the 70+ of our group’s members are aged over 65, and they have been encountering a multitude of health issues, which due to their language deficiencies, they could not discuss properly or in detail with their family doctors or health services providers. Now they do have a chance to understand their health problems, the preventative measures they are to take, and where they could get help or treatment: all thanks to you and your organisation. What else can they ask for?

If you belong to a community group that would like to learn more about health and Australian health services in a language other than English,  you can arrange for MCWH Bilingual Health Educators to visit you or request free information about health topics in over 70 languages by contacting MCWH.