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White Ribbon empowers culturally diverse community leaders

White Ribbon Australia celebrated the work of multicultural leaders in a graduation ceremony on Friday 31 May in Melbourne.


White Ribbon Australia celebrated the work of multicultural leaders in a graduation ceremony on Friday 31 May in Melbourne. The empowering Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Leaders Project took positive steps prevent violence against women from multicultural or CALD backgrounds through a number of community engagement projects.

White Ribbon Australia CEO, Delia Donovan said that in 2018, there were 7.3 million migrants living in Australia, with 29 per cent of the population having been born overseas. There continue to be huge challenges for these communities accessing the support they need.

“We know that violence against women is a big issue because our national statistics tell us so and women in our CALD communities are more likely to be targeted for a variety of reasons. This project has supported emerging leaders from CALD communities to engage with their communities on this issue and make a positive change.” Ms Donovan said.

“This year alone, 20 women have been killed in Australia. That means that each week at least one woman is killed by a current or former partner. Working with communities to prevent abuse and foster positive and safe relationships is fundamental to building safe and connected communities.

 “Prevention programs that raise awareness and work with the community to stop violence against women and children are essential. White Ribbon needs to continue working closely with CALD communities.”

White Ribbon Australia believes the key to ending violence in diverse communities is to ensure that men and women within these communities advocate, educate and raise awareness to empower change.

A recent report by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS), Building Safe Communities for Women and their Children: A compendium of stories from the field, found more than one-quarter of respondents from Afghanistan, Iraq, Nepal (Bhutan), Burma (Karen) and Ethiopia, did not know the laws regarding domestic and family violence (DFV), with 87% stating they did not know DFV is a criminal offence in Australia.

Ms Donovan added: “We have heard anecdotes which support these findings many times. That’s why we partnered with AMES Australia to deliver a program which trained individuals from CALD backgrounds to connect with their communities, educate and share information to end violence against women. Partnership efforts remains key for White Ribbon in order to maximise community reach and impact.”

The emerging CALD Leaders Project engaged with more than 40 men and women in Melbourne who have become passionate leaders and supporters for ending violence against women and children. Participants developed resources, tools, delivered workshops, presentations and created videos to engage with their communities on the issue of family violence and abuse.

Participant Manal Shehab said she became involved because of her own lived experience and the adversity experienced by other women. “It is disheartening and upsetting to see barrier after barrier come up at a time when women are trying to muster courage to leave an abusive relationship and create a stable safe home for themselves and their children, only to find they are on their own,” she said.

“These women are juggling emotions, a fear of being killed, stalked, having children taken away from them, finances, housing, schools, courts, questioning their faith, perhaps moving away from family and social supports, and on top of that navigate a very complex system.”

Manal and her fellow project participants are now educating and empowering those within their community through workshops about family violence prevention. Participants are encouraged to discuss gender roles and women’s rights in the context of their cultural and religious practices. For her workshops, Manal explores Islamic texts and traditions, and the scholarly research that interpret and translate these in ways that value men and women equally, and offer perspectives to promote safe and respectful relationships.

These new advocates finished their training with a celebration, taking away cards with photos of themselves and messages about how they will prevent violence in their community, sharing with the audience their learnings and aspirations for the future.

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