Australian Federation of University Women

New South Wales

AFUW - NSW Incorporated is an association of women graduates from universities throughout the world




At the April meeting of the Hunter Valley Branch, a long-time member of VGIF, their guest was a project officer with the Migrant Resource Centre in Hamilton, Cathy Johnston, who spoke about the task of assisting migrants settle into that area. Jenny Bain writes that this topic was especially interesting with the newest group of refugees settling into the area, schools and university, from the troubled Sudan. Since 2002, new arrivals settling into the Newcastle area have come from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. The Upper Hunter has also welcomed people from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Cathy spoke of the difficult task of providing orientation to distressed people who have no experience using a stove or washing machine. The concept of having money, especially for the women of the family, also requires a change in many of the refugees’ traditional thinking. Cathy also shared some of the personal stories and tragedies that these people have suffered in their homelands before arrival in Australia. These people have often survived many years of war and hardship even if they found their way to a refugee camp and then eventually to Australia. While they may have found a safe haven in Australia, it is difficult to comprehend the difficulties they may experience to adjust to our completely different way of life. Cathy is part of a project team developing a DVD to help the refugees cope with toilets, stoves, buses, rents, Australian customs and laws, among other topics. “Comparisons with the refugees lives and our own life in Newcastle, makes one very grateful for the comforts we experience every day”, comments Jenny.

In the countries such as those from which these migrants have come the VGIF continues to support projects which are devised and implemented by woman-based organizations. Their activities support micro-credit, vocational skill training and health care, as well as awareness programmes dealing with gender equity and domestic violence. In the UPDATE published earlier this year included in the reports of Fay Kittelson, Executive Secretary, were:

#1893 Deprived and Destitute Youth, GHANA After initial communication problems, the final report was submitted for this project funded in 2004 to train unemployed girls aged 13-25, in batik and tie-dye in the village of Wora-wora in Northern Ghana. The program was carried out in four groups of 31 trainees. Initial skills were developed in bookkeeping, salesmanship, business, and financial management followed by training in production skills. The success rate was deemed to be 100%, the participants having fully acquired employable vocational skills in addition to experiencing positive attitudinal and behavioral changes. The leader of the trainees: “We heartily ... thank VGIF staff and management who have provided us with requisite employable skills to gain placement in the society. Now our long awaiting dreams have been accomplished by VGIF.”

#1953 Association of Burkina Faso University Women, BURKINA FASO This project, funded in 2004 to address the fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), has been very effective on multiple levels. Adult literacy training centers have provided the educational and communication tools to enable the participants to become more aware of FGM and its negative impact on the female population. Radio broadcasts have spread the discussion and sensitization to a very large audience, reported as over 300,000. The Association has also worked through other community organizations and with local chiefs, religious leaders, and male participants. Both women and men have been strengthened in their resolve to fight this dangerous practice and become better organized in their local community efforts.

#2055 Doctors On Call For Service, RWANDA Street children, both girls and boys, are provided literacy skills and training in dressmaking, carpentry, agriculture, and animal husbandry through this project. A large photo journal of the activities shows enthusiastic involvement from equal numbers of girls and boys.

#1944 Sierra Leone, Project Agency for Rural Development –AFRA, 2004 The project focused on training women and girls in traditional weaving and dyeing and the manufacture and maintenance of tools for improving the process.

In VGIF there is an On-Site Visit Committee established to arrange for members or colleagues, when traveling near one of the Project Grants locations, to visit and report about the progress, participants and results of projects funded by VGIF. Because VGIF policy directs the organization to use its funds for the worthy projects it supports, financial assistance for these visits cannot be provided.

A visit with AFRA leaders and trainees evolved from a roundtable in San Francisco about funding women and girls in rural areas and challenging settings in sub-Saharan Africa. Attended by VGIF member Rita Skillman, the meeting provided an introduction to leaders of the New Field Foundation and the Global Fund for Women. An on-site visit by Sarah Hobson and Yuri Futamura of the New Field Foundation to the AFRA venue in Sunga Town, Sierra Leone, was arranged. Sarah and Yuri reported on the success of the training, enthusiasm of the participants, quality of the products, and also brought back to VGIF a gift of two gara tie dye pieces from the project.

VGIF Australia is appreciative of the offer of Jennifer Hoare to take on the responsibilities of leadership so ably and enthusiastically provided by Mary Kane. We have a responsibility to keep the momentum, especially when projects outnumber funds available for grants.

Jennifer inherits the mantle of chivying us for our donations which are now due for branches and members.

A form is printed at the foot of the Calendar for your use. New members would be extremely well received.

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