A national voice for immigrant and refugee women’s wellbeing in Australia

AMES Annual Women’s Camp 2016

AMES Annual Women’s Camp 2016

AMES camp participants
AMES camp participants

Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health’s Education Program was yet again facilitated in Mount Eliza, at the annual AMES Women’s Camp with 90 migrant, refugee, and asylum seeker women, who came to settle in Victoria from around the globe. Most of them came from countries experiencing difficulty due to war and prosecution and an important aspect of our approach was to make women feel safe, welcomed and respected.

MCWH’s team worked tirelessly for months preparing for this important event. Our staff sourced all relevant written resources in the first language of the women attending, made hundreds of printed copies, sorted them by health topic and made individual folders for every single woman as their personal health reference guide. To make this day special and memorable, we also approached many agencies for donations and prepared show bags with goodies to say women thank you to women for their participation, putting smiles on their faces and making them feel appreciated.

Donated contents for goodie bags
Donated contents for goodie bags
MCWH staff worked for months to prepare resources
MCWH staff worked for months to prepare resources

Despite the great effort and heavy workload, the reward of seeing women’s faces lit up with amusement and the happiness they felt in reading information in their own language and being able to ask questions and learn about aspects of women’s health they never had opportunity to learn before, makes the hard work worthwhile.

It was so exciting to see the richness of different cultures gathered in one place where religion, skin colour, language, culture, age etc were not as important as the fact that women felt so comfortable and safe in the women-only environment- where everybody looked and talked differently, yet we all understood each other perfectly. The language of respect, acceptance and appreciation is universal and understood equally by everyone, no matter your background.

Our brilliant educators discussed many aspects of women’s health including breast, cervical and bowel cancer, contraception and family planning, preventative programs such as breast screening and the Pap test, menstruation, menopause, osteoporosis, STI’s, healthy lifestyle and healthy relationships, hygiene and heart health. Women enjoyed learning through our very unique model of health education where each women felt they were an active participant and felt comfortable asking questions they never had opportunity to ask before without fear or discomfort of being  seen as ignorant or uneducated.

Our educators made sure to break up the ice talking about, sometimes, embarrassing topics by making some jokes, using educational tools, such as banana model to teach them proper use of condom, or Pap smear Victoria reproductive organs aprons and similar, which really made women laugh and relax quite a bit.

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BHE educator Manasi preparing for a health session

After all day intensive engagement with almost 90 women covering heaps of issues and responding to so many questions, we felt exhausted, yet so satisfied in knowing how big a difference we made and that the information we shared with women may put them and their families on a much healthier life path and possibly save some lives. It was definitely worth doing it!

Amira Rahmanovic 
MCWH Health Education Manager