Women Advocating Change Posted July 20, 2015 by Diaspora Action Australia


How do you engage the media? Develop an advocacy strategy? Become a confident public speaker? Feel comfortable in a leadership role? In May and June, DAA’s Women Leading Change program organised four free workshops on these topics.

DAA launched the Women Leading Change (WLC) program in 2013, understanding that diaspora women are crucial agents for developing positive changes in their homelands. Through regular network meetings, women have shared stories and expertise, and have developed valuable skills and social networks for their overseas projects and human rights advocacy.

This year, we offered four workshops as part of the program, all geared towards developing key skills needed for social change projects. Agnes Cusack discussed how to engage the media. Oxfam Australia shared insights into developing an advocacy strategy. Jacquie Wise worked with participants in improving their public speaking skills in an all-day workshop; and the International Women’s Development Agency and Save the Children reviewed developing leadership skills and communicating advocacy messages, respectively.

A total of 14 women participated in the workshops, with participants coming from the following communities: Sri Lankan, South Sudanese, Iranian, Oromo, Somali, Tibetan, and Afghan. All speakers offered a lively mix of instruction with hands-on activities, ensuring that participants could join in as much as possible.

Certainly Ms Gulghotai Bezhan, President of the Afghan Women’s Organisation of Victoria (AWO), found the workshops both helpful and inspiring. A former physician, Ms Bezhan relishes her current role as a community developer and is committed to empowering Afghan women, both in Australia and in her home country.

“I ask ladies to come to learn English. I tell them that they have the right for a normal human life,” Ms Bezhan relates.

In July, Ms Bezhan will return to Afghanistan for a month—her first time in more than 23 years. While she is admittedly nervous, she is excited about what she wishes to accomplish there. Eventually, under the aegis of the Afghan Women’s Organisation, she plans to set up a microfinance organisation to help women in remote areas of Afghanistan.

More immediately, working with the AWO and Women’s International Solidarity Australia, Gula will set up a playground in the Farah Province of Afghanistan; encourage the mothers to learn literacy skills; and, perhaps, build a school there.

Already an experienced public speaker, Ms Bezhan notes that the all-day public speaking workshop was especially useful. “Our trainer showed us how to be confident, how to manage yourself, how to speak in front of people,” she observes. “I can take these skills to Afghanistan and speak with the media, knowing I can effectively get my message across.”

All participants received a certificate of completion after the fourth workshop – now, better prepared to face the challenges of their future projects with more confidence.

Amy Rashap