‘Voice’ for shared stories rings true

'Be the Voice' magazine is largely derived from stories of 10 women from diverse backgrounds including, Afghan and Indian. Picture: GARY SISSONS. 331711_01

By Sahar Foladi

A new magazine is bringing a new ‘voice’ for women’s stories and issues in the South East.

As part of the Empowering Communities grants from the Department of Justice and Community Safety Victoria, Wellsprings for Women worked vigorously to deliver the ‘Be the Voice’ magazine to the community, a project funded by the City of Casey.

The informative resource features stories on sexual assault, early and forced marriages and coercive control, supported by statistics.

Hannah Wright, co-design facilitator of the project, said creating a safe environment for important conversations and stories to “reveal themselves” is vital.

“The main things I’ve loved about the process, which is something I believe in strongly, is connecting as a group when doing the work and allowing space for stated stories.”

So, when the graphic designer suggested a magazine format, something the organisation hasn’t used in its previous projects, they became excited.

“When everyone heard that, they said that’s most perfect because we should give everyone their own voice and that’s how it came to be called, ‘Be the Voice.’

“It’s important to acknowledge this issue is not just a migrant refugee issue. It’s an issue all over Australia,” Ms Wright said.

The magazine is largely derived from the stories of 10 women from diverse backgrounds including, Afghan and Indian.

Alia (Marzia), Araig, Fahima, Fereshtah, Lina, Mehak, Nadia, Nasira, Priyanka and Qamaria are the 10 women who met for two hours for 10 week which consisted of generating conversations, sharing stories and much more.

The 300 copies of the magazine will be distributed all over in the community, at local agencies and at Wellsprings’ meetings and networking events while digital versions will be available for widespread use.

Chief executive officer, Dalal Smiley said with enough funding and a real demand for more hard copies, they’ll look to print more copies.

Narre Warren South MP Gary Maas said he’s proud to be part of a government that supports these programs in the community.

“Once upon a time we didn’t talk about it. Now the solutions are emanating from grassroots level and permeating through the community.

“It wasn’t that long ago that there used to be this top-down approach to put solutions through. We now know from experience that approach doesn’t work.

“We want to partner not only with local government but with the entire grassroots organisation to ensure these works continue.”

Wellsprings announced the round two funding they’ve received to take this project even further working closely with the 10 women.

Gender equality practitioner, Aviva White said they’ll hold onto the pillar of co-design for the next project and build on the skills and knowledge of the women.

“They’ll deliver supported community safety sessions on sexual assault, early and forced marriages and coercive control to their own community members.

“We might choose them to do it online or in their language. The way they’ll be delivered will be up to the women.”

Round two is a one year project kick-starting from July this year.