Ten years ago, Luz Restrepo arrived in Australia for the first time. She was a trained medical doctor and a skilled communications expert. She spoke no English, she felt frightened and isolated, she was a political asylum seeker; and she was not alone. Luz began reaching out to the many displaced and migrant women in Australia, until one year later they had become a vibrant group of 25, hand-making, and selling crafts throughout Melbourne. Finding strength in their mutual support, a committee of volunteers banded together to help Luz found SisterWorks in 2013.
A Not-for-profit social enterprise, SisterWorks aims to create a safe space for women to learn, share, and grow. Supporting women who are refugees, asylum seekers, or migrants, they provide access to practical education and skills giving them opportunities for economic empowerment.
The SisterWorks philosophy that ‘Work Empowers Women’ is built upon three key elements. Welcoming women of all skill levels; they see great value in Learning by doing. Migrant women are engaged in a variety of roles throughout the organization; from hand-making SisterWorks brand products to business development projects, and entrepreneurial mentorship. Their supportive network and child-friendly environment contribute to providing a sense of Community. There is power in camaraderie amongst women, the power to improve confidence, mental wellbeing, and instill a sense of belonging. Finally, SisterWorks advocates for the importance of Financial Empowerment. They work to remind women of their inherent value, remind women they are capable of earning money to support themselves and their families. SisterWorks supports them to regain their independence and improve their economic outlook, despite the barriers they may have faced in their search for employment as a migrant woman in Australia.
Working in partnership with the UN Women’s Second Chance Education Program (SCE), Sisterworks is expanding this valuable network of support. The SCE program is committed to investing in women, providing access to educational services that are tailored not only to their needs as learners but also to their future as earners. With support from the UN, SisterWorks aims to operate four full-time Empowerment hubs, while also developing an online platform to deliver vocational skills training to women who are unable to access empowerment hubs in person. Growing beyond Metro-Melbourne, they have begun to expand the SisterWorks support system across regional Victoria.
When you decide to shop SisterWorks, you are saying yes to a simple idea; investing in equal access to education, investing in women, will result in some of the best short, medium, and long-term returns for social and economic prosperity across Australia and beyond.