The WRAP#49 Sparkly Moments of 2016

AMES

After another busy year, December has us day dreaming of the languid, summer days ahead. And by ‘day dreaming of’ we mean ‘desperate for’)
In case you missed it, this year at MCWH we’ve:

We’ve also done some extremely rewarding health education with women in prisons, supported a number of women to have their babies through a bilingual labour companion project, promoted gambling awareness in a number of communities, started a PACE leadership program for immigrant women working in Southern Cross (Vic) aged care and giving some much needed attention to the needs of working carers.

We pass on our heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you for sustaining our work in so many different ways, whether as project partners, as MCWH event attendees, or regular WRAP readers.  We are grateful to be ending such an eventful year knowing that we have an amazing bunch of supporters and allies.

We wish you all a safe and restful holiday break.

Until next year,
The WRAP Team

 

Sparkly moments of 2016

This year has been defined by election upsets and the ever increasing need for humanitarian aid in besieged parts of the world. For many of us, the globe has seemed to fall further out of balance, become colder and darker, and it has sometimes been difficult to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel: those glimpses of joy and rays of hope that could sustain us in such times.  But they are there.

In keeping with the abundance of tinsel at this time, here is our pick of the ‘sparkly’ moments you might have missed during the year. The moments that made us smile, rejoice and feel—even for an instant—that all might be alright in the world.

1. Reflecting our diversity on the world stage

Image: Dami Im/ Wikicommons

Image: Dami Im/ Wikicommons

In what was literally a glittering performance, South Korean-born Dami Im represented Australia in the Eurovision Song Contest. While we continue to shout from the rooftops that being ‘culturally and linguistically diverse’ is not marginal (statistics show it is in fact the mainstream), Dami’s performance was a clear statement to anyone who thought the title ‘Aussie Songstress’ could only belong to women named Kylie.

2. Reaching a gold standard in sport

Image: Yusra Mardini/Public domain

Image: Yusra Mardini/Public domain

The ten athletes of the first-ever refugee Olympic team made history at this year’s Rio Games. Many top athletes have had to triumph over adversity, but the refugee Olympians overcame extraordinary odds to achieve their dreams. The team also helped raise awareness about refugees world-wide. As Syrian swimmer, Yusra Madini, who had swum for over three hours in the sea pushing a sinking boat carrying 20 people to safety, said: “I want everyone to think refugees are normal people who had their homelands and lost them not because they wanted to run away and be refugees, but because they have dreams in their lives and they had to go.”

3. Taking the right turn towards marriage equality

Image: Marriage Equality Adelaide/Jenny Scott

This year many of us learned a new word: plebiscite. It’s basically holding an opinion poll on an important public question (interesting fact : there have only been three plebiscites in Australian history — two relating to conscription during World War I, and one to choose a National Song in 1977). However, this time, the question was whether or not Australia should be holding a plebiscite on whether or not same-sex marriage should be allowed.

For many of us who support same-sex marriage,holding a plebiscite would have only served to cause same-sex couples and their families grief and trauma.  But after enduring several months of political debate, there was relief: the proposal was voted down early last month. The road to marriage equality may have hit a bump but it’s fantastic to know that the journey continues.

4. Allowing our inner selves to shine

glitter 5258827384_db5f5099bb_b

Image: Glitter :) / Ângela Antunes

Victoria passed law in August to allow transgender people to change sex on their birth certificate.   Transgender, gender diverse and intersex people will no longer have to divorce or undergo sex change surgery if they need a new birth certificate. While it may seem like a formality, it’s actually a really big deal, especially for people who have been forced to jump through discriminatory and emotionally painful bureaucratic hoops to be recognised for themselves. The legislation also shines a light on how we, as a society, might see ourselves in the near future. Perhaps a society that also sees marriage equality as the right thing to do, and sees people as equally deserving of rights and services, regardless of their visa status. We live in hope.

5. Trail-blazing a path in parliament

Images from You Tube

Images from You Tube

Linda Burney became the first Indigenous woman to enter the House of Representatives and Egyptian-born MP Anne Aly became the first Muslim woman elected to Australian federal parliament and her Labor colleague. At a time when the Australian parliament continues to be mainly white and male, Anne’s and Linda’s achievements made us fiercely proud. If you want to recapture that feeling of pride, you need to listen to their maiden speeches.

6. Looking forward to a dazzling future

my clitoris

Still from “My Clitoris”

Achieving gender equality might not happen in our lifetime, but it’s certainly possible for future generations. Victoria’s Gender Equality Strategy has provided us with the framework. But if this transformational change is to happen, we need to listen to and learn from the next generation, as well as taking on board the lessons of the past. This is why supporting youth-led initiatives is critical, particularly when the issue directly affects or is most likely to affect young women and girls.

Take for example, the award-winning work being conducted by Integrate UK, a youth-led organisation working on issues such as the prevention of FGM/C, violence against women and girls, and forced marriage.

Earlier this month, the organisation released the ‘My Clitoris’ music video to raise awareness about FGM/C. The video is bubbling over with best practice messages about cultural dignity, women’s empowerment, community leadership and the power of peer support.  ‘We won’t stop until we see changes’, the young women of Integrate remind us.  It’s a refrain we should all happily (and loudly) sing along to.

The future is merry and bright.

 

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.

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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