Supporting women on their journey to safety
29 March 2017
Nations like Australia have recently been criticized for remaining conspicuously absent from the group of Western democracies that have spoken out against Donald Trump’s controversial immigration order which bans all refugees from entering the USA for the next four months. Instead, our politicians appear to be gloating about our own draconian refugee policies with Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison recently stating in a radio interview that “We are the envy of the world when it comes to strong border protection policies”.
Irrespective of where you sit on the matter of Australia’s Immigration and Border Protection policies, one thing is clear; we are currently facing the worst refugee crisis since World War II with an increasing number of asylum seekers dying in their desperation to reach safety.
Women and girls, who make up around 50 per cent of the Refugee and Asylum Seeker population are at even greater risk, with those who are unaccompanied, pregnant, single mothers, disabled or elderly being particularly vulnerable. On top of being forced to flee their homes, many must forego education and employment in order to care for children or younger siblings. They are also more likely to become victims of sexual violence. Without the effective protection of a male family member, they often struggle to access food and shelter. Those who have lived in refugee camps for many years waiting for resettlement are likely to have experienced or witnessed significant trauma and disturbances to their lives.
Through our partnership with Toowoomba Refugee and Migrant Support (TRAMS), Mercy Works is helping to provide targeted support to Refugee women who are living in the Toowoomba community. Having no work rights, no income and limited english, we recognized the importance of supporting a project that provides a coordinated response to help these vulnerable women and their children to survive while they wait for a decision on their visa status.
Our “English Connections” project provides social participation, economic wellbeing, independence and community connectedness via enhanced weekly english classes for women. As an additional means of support, childcare is provided by some of the project’s 80 volunteers in order to enable mothers to attend the classes with transport to and from the TRAMS centre also being provided. Feedback from the women being supported in this project includes an increased sense of confidence, independence, capability for employment and improved social interaction.
Despite all they endure, we have noticed time and again how strong and resourceful these women are. This is also evident at our Mercy House of Welcome project in Adelaide which does not only provide support specifically to refugee women, but is largely frequented by them. Whether in Toowoomba or Adelaide, these women all display remarkable resilience and a great willingness to contribute to society as they build a new life for themselves in Australia.
Messages to Maria Rallas