Recently launching their Leading Women Fund, Australia for UNHCR is calling on Australian women to step up and become a part of their “Founding 50”, a group providing financial support to the female-led Syrian refugee households who make up over one-third of the population in Jordan.
National Director, Naomi Steer, notes, “Women have always come together to support each other in our own communities, whether it be in book clubs, the local Pilates centre or the workplace, and the Leading Women Fund is an extension of that. It’s about bringing together women in Australia with women globally.”
The refugee women participating in the Leading Women Fund program are matched with Australian participants, and encouraged to build relationships around their interests within the “Connecting Worlds” app.
Already, trial users are sharing their experiences, “One of the women has a rich Italian background and really loves cooking. They’re exchanging recipes and learning about each other's culture,” Naomi says, “For many of these women family is so important, and it’s an opportunity to speak or talk to somebody different outside their usual world about their everyday life and for some, involving their families in the conversation.”
For Australia for UNHCR, this is also an opportunity to engage with those Australian women in the professional and business space, “They’re dynamic, they’re passionate, and are global citizens who care about the world. Many of them have already set up Not-for-Profits or social enterprise businesses. To me, this is an extension of who these women are – women with ideas who want to go on co-creating this initiative,” Naomi says.
The ability to support their families is a driving force for the determination of these women, “they really want to scale up what they’re doing. These women are entrepreneurs, but they don’t have that formal business acumen or experience and are so open to taking on opportunities to learn and grow. My hope is that women in Australia with fantastic business skills and entrepreneurial knowledge will be able to support them.”
Image source: supplied. Australia for UNHCR.
For Naomi, it’s about simplifying this exchange, “It’s always been difficult to create those connections with language barriers. This Connecting Worlds App, will hopefully give us a model to engage with other women globally and provide mentoring, coaching and support. It’s a big breakthrough for us.”
Learning from the in-person complexity of translating languages, the team looked to address this within the app, introducing seamless online translation and interpreting, with moderation of content to ensure safety and sensitivity. This simple act of translation creates an ease to conversation, a much faster exchange, and another level of accessibility to involvement.
For Janine Allis, founder of Boost Juice and one of the first to be part of the Leading Women Fund network, this app was an opportunity to connect with a woman running an in-store business and see first-hand the mentoring difference she can make. “The women in Jordan are no different to us. They have the same fears and same excitement. You’re just chatting with one of the girls,” she said “The project is endless. It could go worldwide, one woman at a time, one step at a time.”
In Naomi’s words, the app is, “a bit of an adventure. You’re engaging in a new friendship in a way that we all already do in other groups we belong to. It’s not just about sharing business skills and mentoring, it's about those every day in-person conversations we value, and this is one really direct way that a group of women can have that engagement from across the globe, help to develop the project more broadly, and become advocates empowering refugee women.”
Australia for UNHCR is the UN Refugee Agency’s national partner in Australia, raising much needed funds and support for refugees and other displaced and stateless people around the world. Australians wanting to support the UN Refugee Agency can donate online at www.unrefugees.org.au or call 1300 361 288.
Video source: supplied. Australia for UNHCR.