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03 Aug 2017


Women find harmony in poetry, music and dance

The Women of Diversity Dinner 2017 was themed “Harmony Begins At Home”

For many, although safe in Australia, settling in a new community with family left behind, the challenges are not over.

But that Saturday night in Bankstown they danced, sang and cried to a program that included a program of poetry, music, dance and speeches.

Keynote speaker Dr Rachael Kohn spoke about the diversity of women in her own family and worldwide, and the power of faith and stories.

One of the performers, Ethiopian-Australian slam poet Ruth Fessaha, said:

Let us,
Snap the stereotypes of,
The “perfect woman,”
The “perfect leader”
Leave these fictions of
Unattainable ideals
On the bookshelf and,
Give me something real to read like,
She failed, yet she got back up
She lost everything, only to gain it back.
She struggled to cope, yet she found peace.
She had little, yet cared for others’ needs.
Let us,
Break the headlines once again,
Because great women
Are not new news.
And some of the greatest women
I know, aren’t even on the news.

SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said the event was a wonderful gathering of diverse cultures, with women not only sitting together to share their experiences over dinner but also sharing cultural experiences through dance and music.

“It was a happy event and we had so much fun but most importantly it acknowledged the amazing role women play in our communities,” she said.

“It was wonderful to be able to extend this opportunity of networking to many of the women we work with.”

Jewish Board of Deputies community relations and policy manager Lynda Ben-Menashe said: “The Women of Diversity isn’t just about an annual dinner — it’s about bringing women together to develop themselves and their communities for the greater good of Sydney.”

Last year the most important outcome of the dinner was that all the organisations involved sent women to participate in the Board of Deputies’ pilot “We Are All Sydney” community leadership program. Eighteen women from 15 communities graduated from the program in June and demand for a 2018 program is overwhelming.

Many of the guests at the dinner were also graduates of the Board of Deputies’ long-running Shared Table project, which since 2012 has brought together hundreds of diverse women to share food and stories and break down stereotypes and prejudices.

“This is the core business of the Board of Deputies — bringing people together in myriad forums to strengthen the fabric of our society,” said Ms Ben-Menashe.

“We eat together, we talk together, we find out what we care about together and then we fight for those things. Eventually, we stand together in coalitions like the 31-member Keep NSW Safe group to lobby our government to strengthen the law against hate speech.”

The Women of Diversity Dinner was first held in 2016 by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies to establish a coalition of organisations, including the Australia South Sea Islanders-Port Jackson, the Ethnic Communities Council of NSW, the Muslim Women’s National Network of Australia, the Jewish Board of Deputies, the SAHELI South Asian Women’s Network, Settlement Services International, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Uniting Church in Australia NSW & ACT.

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