Self-care during the silly season

angel-cemetery-sculpture-rock-carving-160765It’s that time of year when we wish many of our friends, family and colleagues a safe and happy summer break. Often the safety risks we have in mind are about taking care travelling or not running around the swimming pool. But the silly season can also throw other sorts of health risks our way.

Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, it can be difficult to escape the social pressures to give more time, more money and more cheer at this time of year. For some of us, the financial expectations of the season can be a source of stress. For others, the lack of social networks or family relationships can be equally challenging. According to mental health experts, the festive and holiday season can be a high-risk time for some individuals and communities, especially those who are socially and economically disadvantaged.

Regardless of cultural and religious background, women usually bear the brunt of the shopping, the cooking, the preparing, the wrapping and the overall labour of the festive season. For women from immigrant and refugee backgrounds, these tasks are made even more difficult if family members are overseas and there is a lack of other social and economic support. The irony is not lost on us – at a time when we are told to “take care” and “enjoy our break”, we are negotiating incredible social pressures to contact family members, give unconditionally to others, and make the holidays special and magical for our children.

How then can we take care of ourselves through the chaos? In today’s world, women are often told that the answer is self-care. Yet unfortunately, this idea is also highly gendered. For example, relaxing on the couch in front of the television after a long day of work is often framed as self-care or time-out for women. While for men, often the same behaviour is just called ‘watching TV’.

The problem here is that the expectation on women to be responsible for taking care of ourselves becomes yet another item on our ever-expanding ‘to do’ list taking care of others. Rather than addressing the inequality of work, self-care becomes ‘spoiling yourself’, whether that be an expensive manicure, a block of chocolate or even five minutes alone. At its heart, this idea of self-care for women as ‘indulgence’ is too individualistic to give us any real relief. It doesn’t do many favours for men either, who aren’t given a language to address their own need to take time-out for their emotional and mental well-being.

Let’s challenge and change the gendered expectations we have about caring and being cared for in our homes and communities. At this time of year, we are told about the joys of giving and caring for others. However, women shouldn’t bear the sole burden of caring for ourselves or anyone else. Instead, let’s think about caring as something we share. Let’s work towards making sure that everyone – especially those made vulnerable and discriminated by our systems and structures – has the opportunity to take care of ourselves and give ourselves a well-deserved break!

Media Release: Multicultural women’s health organisation and aged care provider partnering for the primary prevention of family violence

Five women standing in the Southern Cross Care offices, from left to right.

We are proud to be launching our new project in partnership with Southern Cross Care (Vic)! Equality@Work is the first workplace prevention program in Australia to address gender inequality and other intersecting forms of inequality which make immigrant and refugee women particularly vulnerable to family violence and other forms of violence against women.

The project is funded by the Victorian Government through the Community Partnerships for Primary Prevention Program.

A violence prevention program by a community-based organisation for women of immigrant and refugee backgrounds and a not-for-profit aged care provider has been given a boost, thanks to a grant from the Victorian Government through the Community Partnerships for Primary Prevention Program.
The Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health (MCWH) and Southern Cross Care (Vic) were delighted to receive a grant for their partnership project, Equality@Work, which aims to develop and implement a workplace model specific to immigrant and refugee female employees to prevent family violence and other forms of violence.

The partnership project will build on the existing relationship between the organisations. In 2013, Southern Cross Care (Vic) introduced a women’s health education program across the organisation followed by a women’s leadership program, both facilitated by MCWH.
“We are proud to partner with Southern Cross Care again, to build on previous and current initiatives that will further empower women and give them a stronger voice in the workplace,” said Adele Murdolo, Executive Director of MCWH.

“Female workers from immigrant and refugee backgrounds are a growing and increasingly dominant cohort within the Australian aged care workforce. As such, they are of critical importance to the sector’s viability in terms of addressing the need to care for Australia’s multicultural ageing population, which is expected to quadruple by 2050,” said Adele.

Executive Manager of Workforce and Culture at Southern Cross Care (Vic), Danielle Rose, said the grant will enable the organisation to further develop its gender equality and violence prevention model.

“Women account for over 88 per cent of our total workforce of 1400 employees, of which, more than 60 per cent are from an immigrant and refugee background,” she said. “Through our partnership with MCWH, we want to provide opportunities for women from a non-English speaking background to take a leadership role in championing gender equality and violence prevention, and to be involved in the engagement and development of a shared action plan that is meaningful to them.”

“As an accredited White Ribbon Workplace, we are committed to ending the cycle of violence against women. We will be engaging our White Ribbon Ambassador to assist in the promotion and facilitation of the project within the organisation,” said Danielle.

The Equality@Work project has commenced on 1 July. The model will be co-designed with staff at two locations – Southern Cross Care (Vic)’s community services office in the north-west region and the aged care home in Springvale. Once the model is developed, it can be adapted and implemented across all Southern Cross Care locations in Victoria. The project is expected to be completed in 12 months.

Submission to the Victorian Gender Equality Strategy

MCWH is proud to share our submission to the Victorian Gender Equality Strategy, which was endorsed by eleven regional and state-wide women’s organisations including: Women’s Health In the North; Women’s Health in the Southeast; Women’s Health East; Women’s Health West; Women’s Health and Wellbeing Barwon South West; Women’s Health Grampians; Women’s Health Goulburn North East; Gippsland Women’s Health; Women’s Health Victoria; Women with Disabilities Victoria; and Positive Women Victoria.

We are also very pleased to endorse submissions made to the Strategy by these organisations.
Because MCWH is a national, community based organisation committed to the achievement of health and wellbeing for and by immigrant and refugee women, our submission focuses on the needs of immigrant and refugee women.

Click here to read the full submission, including our recommendations.

Understanding the complexity of gender issues

gender training_DAA 3

I will be more conscious of my own position/role before speaking and engaging. – workshop participant

Last week MCWH partnered with Diaspora Action Australia (formally known as the Humanitarian Crisis Hub) for the second year in a row to facilitate a gender workshop for 10 of DAA’s staff and volunteers. It was an evening of exchanging thoughts, ideas and concepts about gender issues, as they arise in both national and global contexts. Participants were introduced to different ways of thinking about gender and asked to reflect on the impact of gender norms and racial biases in their everyday lives.

Concepts such as ‘intersectionality’ were new to some members of the group, with one participant observing: “I will no longer be simplistic in my assumptions.” For others, the training was a way of deepening their understanding and expanding on their professional practice. As an attendee later reflected: “I was reminded of how amazingly complex these issues are.”

In order to ground these complexities in reality, the settlement stories of real immigrant and refugee women were shared and discussed with participants. What those stories illustrated, and what the group discovered through the workshop, was how interlaced and multifaceted gender issues can be. By seeking out a deeper understanding of oppression and working towards continual self-reflection on the mechanisms which hold it in place, staff and volunteers at DAA are even better placed to effectively empower women and their communities.

If you think your organisation could benefit from an MCWH gender workshop, why not contact us here.