The Collection

Because I’m a girl …

BY RUTH LESMANA | WRITER

“When I was a child, my parents wouldn’t let me walk at night by myself – because I’m a girl.”

“If a man attacks me then I won’t be able to fight back – because I’m a girl.”

“When I get married, my husband will work and I’ll stay at home – because I’m a girl.”

“Even if I don’t agree, I’ll do what my father/brother/husband/boyfriend says – because I’m a girl.”

“I don’t think I would be as strong as them – because I’m a girl.”

These are just some of the statements we hear from students and friends in the community in which we work. Each time, my heart sinks.

There’s no doubt that in some cases, they’re surrounded by cultural and safety complexities. But when girls are not ‘allowed’ to do certain things, or ‘warned’ against them – simply because they’re girls… I want to ask ‘WHY?’

Why is this a good enough reason to limit what girls can, and should do?

What good does it do, to raise girls who grow up in fear and cower at new opportunities?

When will this statement speak of possibilities and positive expectations, instead of limitations?

Not to mention the educational, health, and leadership sectors of our world; did you know that in the majority of countries, it has been reported that 40% of women who have experienced violence sought help? It’s been said that in many countries, both women and men believe that wife-beating is justified.*

They’re expected to stay silent, because they’re girls.

We need to continue working hard to equip communities to look beyond this. If girls continue to believe this, it will seep into every other part of their lives. They need to know that they can ask questions so that it broadens their future options, rather than box them in. To build teams and support networks that believe in themselves, because that’s what creates change. When individuals are encouraged and equipped to pursue their own growth, it spills out onto others.

For every student that learns to operate a sewing machine, to avoid or survive violent encounters, to share their personal stories so that they can begin to heal from traumatic experiences, to provide better care for children, and to set and achieve goals… they’re changing their understanding of this statement, “Because I’m a girl…”.

“I stand up for, and make wise decisions about my own future – because I’m a girl.”

“I show, and expect to be shown – respect, by others – because I’m a girl.”

“I’m strong, capable, and loyal – because I’m a girl.”

“I’m fierce, compassionate, and loving all in one – because I’m a girl.”

“I’m contributing positively to society – because I’m a girl.”

These are the statements that should come to mind when we hear those four words.

RL.

 

*https://unstats.un.org/unsd/gender/downloads/worldswomen2015_report.pdf

Step by Step

BY MECHELLE MOORE | WRITER

Today Global Alms Incorporated published a media release announcing that as their CEO-Asia, I am now a new partner of the Kiah Elevating Excellence program. This might not seem so significant to you, but for me this is a big deal!

“We are excited to announce that our Chief Executive Officer – Asia, Mechelle Moore, has recently been selected as a new partner for the Kiah Elevating Excellence program.” – Global Alms Incorporated

Media Release | Global Alms Incorporated CEO is now a partner of the Kiah Elevating Excellence Program | November 2017

Although I am the CEO & Founder of RMJ United, my full-time position is currently as CEO-Asia for Global Alms Incorporated based on the Thai/Burma border. Global Alms Incorporated is a growing Australian based not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the elimination of trafficking, sexual exploitation and physical abuse of men, women and children.

The Kiah Elevating Excellence program is designed to focus on “selected individuals who inspire, create and make a difference to those around them, and with just a little help, could do so much more”, says John Glenn, Managing Director and Founder of Kiah Consulting.

“The Elevating Excellence program is our contribution—using who and what we know to give a hand to a few who have talent, a drive and a vision.  We call it Elevating Excellence because we aim to support our partners to level up, to take that jump to the next stage of their careers.” – Kiah Consulting

I have worked extremely hard over the last 6 years to help Global Alms Incorporated grow into what is it today. Thankfully, we have a great team of young men and women who are passionate about our work in Anti-Human Trafficking. In this industry it is extremely difficult to build an organisation from the ‘ground up’ without professional guidance, but with persistence and hard work we have done it.

The Kiah Elevating Excellence program will provide networks and resources for me to grow professionally and expand my work in both Global Alms Incorporated and RMJ United.  I have learnt it is extremely important to challenge yourself as an individual; not only investing in yourself, but in your team. The more I grow, develop and improve, the more my team will do the same. For me to invest in them, I need to first invest in myself.

I believe we should celebrate the small wins, not just the big achievements. This is an exciting time for me and also my teams.

MM.

 

Hidden in the Fields

BY KATHERINE THEN | WRITER

The migration of women around the world has remarkably increased in the last 40-50 years. Although many women and girls migrate voluntarily, others migrate as a result of war, ethnic conflicts, economic stagnation, and natural disasters.

In 2016, the Council of Europe reported that, “for the first time since the beginning of the refugee and migrant crisis in Europe, women and children on the move outnumber adult men”. “Women and children made up nearly 60% of refugees and other migrants crossing into Europe.”

According to the UN, between 2000 and 2015, the number of international migrants has increased by 41%, reaching 244 million. Almost half of them are women. Today, 50 per cent of the world’s refugees are women and girls.

This week, as part of our community collaboration efforts with Global Alms Incorporated, our team visited a family that has been in Thailand for 30 years living as undocumented migrants. Family members – most of whom were women, work in the agriculture sector- dealing with uncertainties, such as lack of work in low harvesting seasons, harsh working conditions, minimal pay, and maltreatment. Due to their undocumented status, they often face challenges relating to their safety, health, and economic security. Everyday they walk through these muddy rice fields, at times in the adverse conditions of rainy seasons, just to access their homes.

As reported by the International Labor Organization, agriculture contractors around the world often hire the most vulnerable laborers least aware of their rights to maintain low pay for long hours of work. In some countries, women account for a substantial proportion of the agricultural labor force. India, being the largest producer of tea, employs over a million of tea workers, mostly women. In the United States, approximately 400,000 women, majority of whom are immigrants, work in agriculture. In Thailand, migrant workers from Myanmar, more than half of which are women, make up a vast majority of the agricultural workforce.

Although most migrant women prefer to work in urban rather than rural areas – due to greater economic and educational opportunities, there are still many women that remain working in the fields – enduring and wading through despite cycles of insecurity and hardships.

KT.

Woman of Steel: Oula Awad

BY MECHELLE MOORE | WRITER

If you have ever trained at a ladies only gym in Greenacre, then chances are you have seen Oula Awad in action; motivating one of her clients on their journey to a healthy lifestyle.

My first impression of Oula Awad was, ‘this woman is tough and determined’. There was a natural gentleness in her eyes with an ‘I can accomplish anything’ presence about her. I wasn’t sure when or how that self-belief and assurance had developed, until I heard Oula’s story.

It was only 6 months after giving birth to her son, Noah, when Oula decided to join a ladies only gym. “Due to pregnancy complications, I had doubled my weight and ended up around 121kg”, she says. “When I gave birth to Noah, I constantly looked at myself in the mirror and could not bear the sight of what I had become compared to what I was before pregnancy.”

It was through, “persistence, patience and proper eating habits over a course of a 2 to 3 year period” that she lost 45 kg. The rest of the excess weight came off slowly over time. “I was extremely depressed at the start and could not see any results”, she says. “Through patience, sheer hard work and dedication, I started noticing the changes and drop off weight.”

I remember Oula’s face lighting up when she explained the transition that occurred within her body and mind that took a while to be noticeable. “I could see other ladies in the same predicament”, she says. “I thought to myself, ‘if I did it, then I can help others to do it too’. I believed in myself and these ladies needed someone to make them believe in themselves too.”

It was during this time, that Oula decided to become a Personal Trainer. Through online studies she obtained a Certificate III and IV in Fitness. “I would still do my daily training at the gym and attend to my family’s needs during the day”, she says. “When they would all go to sleep, I’d jump online to study and complete assignments to achieve the desired qualifications to become a licensed Personal Trainer.”

Once qualified as Personal Trainer, Oula generously worked at a gym for a period of 4 years without drawing a wage. That kind of generosity towards helping women is rare. In Oula’s mind her “remuneration was seeing the ladies’ smiles and petite figures come back to them without negatively judging themselves”.

Oula shared that as a mother and wife, it can be extremely hard to juggle daily life with your ambitions. “Luckily and thankfully, I am surrounded by a man and kids that gave me the space and time to continue my career ambitions without the added complication of attending to the family life”.

When new to an industry there is usually someone that we look up to or influenced us in some way. For Oula that is her friend, Violet,. “[Violet] constantly pushed me and had her hand behind my back”, she says. “She helped me see every blockade in my path as nothing but a little hurdle to get over and keep moving.” Describing Violet as, “nothing short of a sister to me, I have so much love and respect for this woman for making things seem pretty easy”.

In every industry there are always challenges to face and rewards. “The best thing I experience, and I do experience this quite often, is seeing ladies achieve their results. I always receive phone calls from their husbands thanking me for changing their lives”, she says. “Husbands call me thankful for bringing back [their wives] for how they were; both emotionally and physically”.

For Oula to achieve her career goals she has sacrificed her own time and spending time with her husband and children. This is not an easy path to walk, especially with a goal of helping others. I admire Oula’s commitment to her goals and determination to complete what she started. She explains, “[I am] blessed with a beautiful family; without my husband and kids, I wouldn’t be where I am right now”.

We discussed her family and turning points in her life where she needed to ‘dig deep’ to survive. I was overcome with emotion listening to the journey Oula has travelled so far. There are similarities in our stories and her experiences hit a few nerves with me.

The most influential women in her life are, “women who have lost children and kept moving forward”. She explained that, “as a mother who has had 2 miscarriages and buried a daughter (Yasmine), I have nothing but love and respect for any woman who has experienced the same calamities”.

I think back over the interview and remember feeling comforted that I wasn’t the only one who had been through such experiences, but also anguish that someone else had been changed by such tragedies.

Oula is the most positive person I have ever met. Her sheer determination and self-belief is inspiring and something women need to see. “Believe in yourself; remain motivated; be consistent; never give up; stay strong willed and never feel that you’re alone”, she says. “Lift your head and be proud of who you are; life is a challenge, keep on going strong”.

I am humbled to have met such an incredible woman.

MM.