8 March 2022

International Women's Day (IWD), March 8, celebrates women's achievements and creates an opportunity for society to reflect on the social change that is still needed to truly break long-standing barriers for women.

This IWD, Life Without Barriers is focusing on elevating the voice and experiences of women who have sought refuge and asylum in Australia. Refugee and asylum seeker women have significant experience of inequality and rich insights to share about how we can truly achieve societal equity for all women.

“It’s vital to recognise the full spectrum and intersectionality of women’s experiences and that means the diverse experiences of refugee women," says Life Without Barriers' Acting National Policy Advisor, Siv Yoganathan.

"They come to Australia after experiencing extraordinary circumstances and are incredible examples of strength and resilience. Moreover, it is their global views and wide-ranging experiences that are so important to the conversation we have about women in Australia.”

Life Without Barriers’ calls for the experience of refugee women to be included in the national discussion.

“Women who experience multiple forms of inequality are often the most marginalised in our community and we need to create the space to hear their views more."

"This IWD, we need to include and promote for refugee women to part of the conversation. By creating better understanding of the different facets of a women’s identity and any resulting disadvantage or privilege, we foster a pathway to create more prosperity and wellbeing in all areas of society, and equity. This is a key driver and passion in the work we do at Life Without Barriers, and how to challenge any bias”.

There are many barriers that impact migrant women and especially women seeking asylum, including:

  • The type and duration of their visa can create uncertainty around their visa/residency status and therefore their future as a whole .

  • Adjusting to different cultures - migrant women including women seeking asylum, can experience greater barriers in balancing socio-cultural expectations between their home cultures and new cultures in Australia.

  • Isolation and marginalisation due to lack of community links or separation from family

  • Language barriers and a lack of sense of belonging.

  • Disempowerment stemming from an inability to aspire or actively plan for their future .

  • Some women seeking asylum come from countries whereby traditionally they would be expected to stay at home and care for their family rather than seeking employment and engaging in meaningful activity in the community.

  • Low literacy and poor educational opportunities prior in home countries and consequent hurdles and limitations of opportunities to pursue education/ skilled employment pathways in Australia.

  • Anxiety and mental ill health including trauma from past experiences which could have a significant impact on their ability to engage in social and other activities

  • Other biopsychosocial issues/ aspects impacting overall health and social participation capacity.

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