International Women’s Day – a message from CEO Chris Murphy

Posted on March 8, 2016

Happy International Women’s Day! The 8th of March has been set aside to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women everywhere! As a mother of young children and the CEO of a charity, I know I am fortunate.

While Australia has many gender equity/parity issues to conquer, I am blessed that I stand on the shoulders of the many women who have paved the way  before me.

Education in my family was encouraged, I was able to study at university, I was able to make my own choices about how I would live my life. Sadly this is still not the case for many women with whom we work.

In terms of literacy, two thirds of the people on this planet who still can not read or write are women, women are under represented in decision making roles at every level, are predominately paid less than their male counterparts, are more likely to live below the poverty line, are more vulnerable to domestic and sexual violence and are more responsible for doing unpaid domestic and community work.

However, in celebration of all the work that women do and on behalf of all those who encourage and inspire me, I would like to share with you some of my favourite pictures and stories of the women I have had the privilege of working with.

Two women sitting outside on a mat in front of a hut

Saru is an impressive and hardworking woman from Mutoko, Zimbabwe who works incredibly hard for her family. A recipient of the small livestock pass-on scheme, Saru created a thriving pig and goat farming business. She invited me into her home. In 2012, we brought her out to Australia and she spoke at one of our community education events with Clover Moore the Lord Mayor of Sydney. I was impressed with her dignity and grace in the way she spoke at the event. I had the pleasure of having her stay in my home on the Central Coast.

grandmother mother and daughter

Three generations of women affected by HIV in South Africa. Grandmother, mother and daughter. The grandmother was a community based care giver, fighting to reduce stigma and speaking up to increase access to affordable treatment.

lady standing in front of home stay

In rural Da Bac, Vietnam, we are helping to lift an entire community out of poverty via community based tourism. Nhem, the homestay owner in this photo, was taught hospitality skills, her house was upgraded to accommodate tourists and she now has a thriving business. I stayed with Nhem as a guest last year and was so impressed with her hospitality.

Braille class

Anissa is a woman who knows how to overcome challenges. As the Provincial Delegate for the Association of Blind and Partially Sighted People (ACAMO) in Niassa Province, Mozambique, she advocates for disability inclusion rights in education and livelihoods. ACAMO has been working to identify the most pressing issues for people with disabilities (PWDs) in Mozambique. Their response has included training in HIV and AIDS awareness, advocacy, social accountability monitoring and Braille literacy. Being visually impaired herself, Anissa is an active member of the Braille class. An impressive woman leader.

mother holding goat with daughter in front of pen

Kezia is a community based volunteer care giver – a leader in her community in Southern Zambia. She was a widow and shunned by her husband’s family because of her HIV status. She is a mother of 6 children and her youngest child was born HIV positive. She was very proud to be able to help others who were worse off than she was. To help her make ends meet, Kezia participated in our livestock pass-on scheme and the income she received from raising goats helped her to support herself and her family. When I took this photo, I was interested to show the goat and the goat house to our donors, but Kezia called frantically for her daughter to be with her so she would be in the picture too. Having her daughter in the photo was much more important to her. Loreen is wearing her best dress for our visit and when I think of a mother’s love for her child I often think of this photo.