Last year for International Women’s Day, Women in Focus launched the Giving Community to help raise funds for programs that support women who face challenges accessing the opportunities they need to thrive.
In the months since, these initiatives have had a significant impact on the lives of women and girls across the country – and with their combined focus on education, business skills and financial wellbeing, the ripple effect is set to continue.
Empowering women to grow businesses
Founded in 2013 by Sydney-based social entrepreneur Mandy Richards, Global Sisters’ Accelerate program supports women who are excluded from workforce participation to grow sustainable businesses and become financially independent. It’s been a busy few months for the program following the success of the first ever ‘Global Sisters Sister Pitch’ event, which provided a platform for the women to raise the funds needed to finance their next stage of business growth.
Kagi Kowa, an enthusiastic participant in the program who shared her story with us last year, says pitching her business at the Sister Pitch event was empowering. “It gave me the opportunity to share my story with a supportive audience and I got to meet incredible women that have inspired me since,” she shares.
The financial support Kagi received will go a long way to support her social enterprise business, Nubia Designs. “I plan to buy more equipment that is needed for my art workshops, as well as scale up my activities through marketing and a rebrand,” she says.
Promoting new skills and a sense of belonging
The ‘Strong & Kind’ Job Readiness Sewing Circle – a joint venture between The Sydney Community Foundation Sydney Women’s Fund, designer fashion label, Ginger and Smart, Sydney fashion social enterprise, The Social Outfit and refugee support service, Parents’ Cafe Fairfield Inc. – is a prime example of the power of collaboration, empowering migrant and refugee women in Australia with a sense of community belonging, practical skills, and employment pathways.
In 2018, 150 Strong & Kind Canvas Tote bags were produced and sold as a result of the program, giving the participants the opportunity to earn an income and enhance their own financial security. 100 per cent of the revenue has been re-invested in the initiative this year.
“This year, a new product, currently in design, will be produced and embellished by the women in the group, bringing forward some intricate and unique techniques from their traditional cultures,” shares Jane Jose, CEO of Sydney Community Foundation. The women will be invited to showcase their work at The Art Gallery of New South Wales at an event celebrating women in 2019.
Enhancing women’s financial wellbeing
Using funds raised through the Women in Focus Giving Community, WIRE is now in the process of creating a series of blogs exploring women’s financial empowerment and experiences. “This includes getting contributions from women and gender diverse people with lived experience of financial hardship, family violence and sexual assault,” shares Julie Kun, CEO of WIRE.
The contributors are being paid the market rate for their blogs, supporting increased financial inclusion. “Being asked to contribute and being valued – I can't explain how that makes me feel,” shares one contributor. “This paid gig, even as a one-off, means I get to tell my family that I have an opportunity, I have work to do, and I have hope.”
WIRE is set to launch a new website ahead of International Women’s Day 2019 featuring the blogs – a move Julie hopes will help kick-start important conversations about money.
Supporting young girls to thrive
A national harm prevention initiative created by the Dugdale Trust for Women & Girls (with the Victorian Women’s Trust as Trustee), ROSIE has been guiding girls in navigating the world around them since its inception in 2014.
The past year has been one of growth for the initiative, led by Maddy Crehan and Ally Oliver-Perham in Melbourne. “It’s been exciting to see Rosie expand in reach, as well as scope, with the introduction of our Rosie in the Classroom resource for educators, our teenage writers program, and a complete website redesign,” shares Maddy. “We give young women a platform to use their voice, so they can speak to their peers about issues they care about.”
ROSIE in the Classroom is proving a valued resource, assisting teachers in talking with young women about difficult but important topics such as friendship, healthy relationships and mental health. “Information on such issues can be hard to find, misleading, inappropriate or driven by commercial interests,” Maddy says. “We have and will continue to fill this educational gap.”