Driven by their own experience of migration, two SSI staff have developed a community group for refugee and migrant women to combat barriers to social and economic participation.
Through their work with SSI’s Ability Links program, Rizwana and Shabana noticed that despite having an abundance of skills, refugee and migrant women were often socially and professionally limited by a lack of connections in Australia.
“I went through the same situation when I came to Australia and it was really hard. This is how I know refugees and migrants don’t want to just sit at home getting benefits, they want to have focuses and find employment,” explained Rizwana.
To combat this challenge, they developed the Skills Development Support Network (SDSN) ― a community based multicultural network that brings together culturally and linguistically (CALD) women from all different walks of life to share their skills and talents. It aims to support women in four different areas: social inclusion, education, employment and mental health and wellbeing.
“Our aim is to provide a platform where group members are able to break their isolation and eventually become a part of the community and play positive role in the diverse multicultural environment of Australia,” said Shabana.
SDSN also identifies educational opportunities for CALD women and finds innovative solutions to any financial challenges they face. So far, the group has assisted over 50 people to gain a certificate or diploma, with many attendees focusing on business, social work and community services certificates.
In July last year 35 participants, alongside Rizwana, graduated with a Diploma of business. One of these individuals was Sana Hussain, a young woman who arrived in Australia from Pakistan in 2009. Sana was eager to re-enter the workforce after raising two young children.
Rizwana, Shabana and SDSN supported Sana to partake in weekend classes as part of a Business Diploma, and organised funding to cover program fees.
While studying her diploma, Sana began work experience at a community service organisation, and she has now gained employment with a major NDIS provider.
Sana explained that finding the SDSN proved to be a turning point in her life. She has embraced all the positive changes that have come with her continued education. She is eager to continue progressing her career.
“Rizwana has been very helpful. Owing to her selfless help, I started gaining my lost confidence back and this helped me to take a new beginning as far as my professional career is concerned.”
You can learn more about SSI’s Ability Links here
Visit the Skills Development Support Network Facebook page here