On 19 October 2020, Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA was honoured to feature five fantastic women on its International Sisterhood panel for the Victorian Trade Hall Council’s Anna Stewart Memorial Project. These women – Vilada Phomduansy (APHEDA Laos Country Manager), Teng Rany (APHEDA Cambodia Program Coordinator), Elisabeth Araujo (APHEDA Timor Leste Country Manager), Ricar Pascoela (Director of APHEDA partner organisation, Working Women’s Centre of Timor Leste (WWCTL) and Hiba Yasin (APHEDA Palestine Social Inclusion Officer) – spoke about their work and reflected upon the impact the Anna Stewart Memorial Project has had on them.
The Anna Stewart Memorial Project and APHEDA Women
Over the years, many APHEDA-nominated women have been invited to participate in the Anna Stewart Memorial Project (ASMP), particularly in South Australia and Victoria. Three current APHEDA Country Managers are former Anna Stewart participants (Hoang Hang, Vietnam; Vilada Phomduangsy, Laos and Elisabeth Araujo, Timor Leste).
APHEDA: fostering international sisterhood since 1984
Due to extended COVID-19 lockdowns in Victoria, this year the Victorian Trades Hall Council Women’s Team decided to run the entire Anna Stewart Memorial Project online and free of charge meaning more local, national and international women were able to participate. APHEDA was invited to run an International Sisterhood workshop as part of the two-week program. This was an excellent opportunity to showcase APHEDA’s own ‘Annas’ and the project work for women’s rights they are currently involved in with the support of Australian unionists.
APHEDA’s focus on strengthening working women’s rights has been central to our partnerships since the organisation was established in 1984 by Helen McCue and the ACTU. That same year, the first group of women nurses from Lebanon were brought to Australia to study. Among this group was Olfat Mahmoud, now head of the Palestine Women’s Humanitarian Organisation (PWHO) based in the refugee camps of Lebanon where displaced Palestinian families have been living for over 70 years.
Graduate panelists reflect on their Anna Stewart Memorial Project Training
The International Sisterhood Workshop highlighted the work of five APHEDA Women including four previous graduates of ASMP (Rany, Vilada, Ricar and Elisabeth) and one who joined sessions online during this year’s training for the first time (Hiba). The panellists were invited to talk about how the ASMP training impacted their personal development as leaders and activists as well as the ongoing project work they are involved in today that focuses on strengthening women’s rights.
Women’s leadership projects in Vietnam – Hoang Hang
Although she was unable to attend in person, Sister Hoang Hang, Country Manager of APHEDA’s office in Vietnam, was also an Anna Stewart graduate from 2008 and recorded a video message of her reflections on ASMP and the current women’s leadership projects being coordinated by APHEDA.
The situation for women in Palestine – Hiba Yasin
The workshop was attended by 54 participants and facilitated by APHEDA’s International Organiser for Women’s Development & Timor Leste, Samantha Bond. When the panel was asked to talk about current project work focused on strengthening women’s rights, Sister Hiba Yasin from Palestine outlined the current context and struggle for rights and participation of women in the labour force and limited legal protections
‘Women’s employment in the unorganised sector is 64%, therefore they do not receive any rights in terms of insurance or social protections and their work is not recognised”
“Women in the Agriculture Sector in Gaza spend an average of 34 hours per week on household activities whereas men spend only one hour, however women spend 31 hours on agricultural activities and men spend 64 working hours per week. Both men and women are working 65 hours per week but the redistribution at the household level of roles is very important to reduce the long working hours that women spend on household activities. This will allow women to enter the formal sector”
APHEDA Sisterhood from Timor Leste, Laos and Cambodia represent!
Elisabeth and Ricar from Timor Leste were able to outline the establishment of the Working Women’s Centre of Timor Leste (WWCTL) following Elisabeth’s participation in the Anna Stewart Project in 2008 and the imminent passing of legislation to provide labour rights and social security for Timorese Domestic Workers. Sister Vilada talked about training in Laos that has led to women establishing their own businesses and pushing for key workplace rights such as maternity leave. Sister Rany described the incredible work of the Cambodian Prostitute’s Union, educating women workers about their rights and recognising the capacity for women to earn an independent income, particularly as single parents providing an education for their children.
Solidarity and Sisterhood: a powerful panel with personal and professional insights
Overall the workshop was powerful and heartfelt as the panel shared both personal and professional reflections on their experiences as women leaders and APHEDA Sisters. The feedback throughout the entire workshop was positive from all participants. The ASMP provided a wonderful opportunity to connect the work of APHEDA around its strategic pillar of Women’s Rights and Feminist Movement Building to women unionists and expand the perception of sisterhood and solidarity outside of the Australian union context.
“It’s wonderful to hear the amazing directives of women in many diverse settings, I teach in a secondary school where many young women are often disempowered and limited in opportunities due to the rigid expectations of family and community.” ASMP Participant 2020
“Women’s Issues are Women’s Issues Worldwide” Deb Gunn (HACSU President, ASMP Workshop)
More about the Anna Stewart Memorial Project
The Anna Stewart Memorial Project (ASMP) is a two-week training course designed to encourage more women to be active in unions. Named to honour the legacy of a much respected young Australian unionist whose career included championing rights for working women such as maternity leave and childcare, Anna Stewart training has been delivered by peak union councils across Australia since 1984.
The Global Justice Organisation of the Australian Union Movement
The work of Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA relies on the efforts of thousands of Australian unionists and internationalists who raise funds, volunteer, and take action to build solidarity across borders.