In light of International Women’s Day, Western Sydney Community forum hosts their ‘Voices of the West’ event to showcase inspiring and #BOSS women various industries, walks of life, ethnicities and experiences.
Through their ‘living library’ sessions, guests conversate with influential women and speakers including United Nations Association of Australia President, Dr Patricia Jenkings; and 2016 Woman of the year for NSW, Jen Armstrong. Through their own individual journeys, they have created a positive and impactful life for themselves and others through their work.
Let’s meet them!
Coming to Australia as an asylum seeker in 1999, Kariuki was forced to flee her native Kenya after tribal clashes. She was filled with despair at having to leave her children behind, but used this as a driving force to work harder for herself and her family.
Despite the difficulties she faced in finding a job with no certifications in Australia, she never resolved for the ‘easy’ roles or generic jobs. She knew she had more to offer and refused to settle for less.
“I knew how to fight for myself from the beginning” Kariuki says.
Despite her personal and social battles and barriers, she now supports the NSW police force and links them to minorities and people who speak English as a second language.
Based on her own life experiences, she emphasises the importance of women in power and believing in your own inner voice despite external pressures and struggles.
“When a woman is in power, they pass their voice and message to other women”, she says. She exemplifies this in her work ethic, now helping hundreds of African women settle into Australia from their home countries through her work.
Just as she once battled isolation and despair upon arrival in Australia, she now helps other women work through this and places them under her wing through her career.
Prior to her work at the WSCF, Sankovic previously worked in industries such as working with local and state governments, that placed her a lone woman in a room full of high-profile men. Attending meetings, she felt that she was dismissed and belittled as the ‘personal assistant’, or simply ignored.
She admits that it sometimes took her male colleagues to defend and stand up for her in these instances.
“It took their voice to legitimise my credibility” Sankovic says.
Sankovic enabled situations like this to fuel her passion for women’s rights, as well as her own voice. Particularly, she has spent 30 years working across Greater Western Sydney and now leads WSCF to shape policy and services in Western Sydney.
As a voice for representing the people and services in the Western Sydney region, she reminds us that today is our opportunity to bring our collective voices “from the west to the fore”.
Jen Armstrong is a living testimony of how small, kind gestures can have great impacts.
It started off when she received a $20 body wash after leaving a place of domestic violence, that sparked incredible change in her life.
Through this seemingly minor gesture by a community network, she started a charity called Beauty Bank, which provides victims of domestic violence with essential toiletries and small gift items. She started off in 2013 by asking her friends for toiletries on Facebook, which grew into distributing over 8,000 bags around Sydney through generous community donations.
This is why Armstrong discourages the “shrug” mentality when it comes to making individual impacts and changes to things happening within your community, the nation and worldwide. Every single tiny thing helps, she adds, emphasising how small gestures can make big changes.
These are just a handful of anecdotes from women who choose to take up space, be outspoken and command attention for impact and change- despite being told or persuaded otherwise. Whilst the day for celebrating women is only held once a year (unfortunately), these women are few of the many examples of females making an incredible impact every other day of the year.