Migrant and Refugee Women Talk Money

by Narelle Sullivan

Financial literacy empowers women to make informed financial decisions and improve their economic status and long-term well-being. A lack of financial literacy is a known barrier to inclusion and participation in civic life. Women are over-represented in groups having particularly low financial literacy levels, with migrant and refugee women being especially marginalised.

Women’s Health In the North’s (WHIN) Let’s Talk Money program aims to support the economic empowerment of migrant and refugee women living in Melbourne’s northern metropolitan region. WHIN employs and trains women from diverse cultural backgrounds to deliver practical, tailored and free financial literacy and money management workshops to women in their own languages and communities. Let’s Talk Money addresses the links between economic inequality and family violence and tackles the gendered drivers of economic inequality experienced by migrant and refugee women.

Two women sitting at a table listening

Newly-arrived refugee and migrant women face particular challenges to economic participation and security. Despite the plethora of financial information produced, very little of it is translated, and accessing interpreter services is difficult. There is limited understanding of the barriers and experiences faced by migrant and refugee women, and existing information is not relevant, or tailored enough to be effective. A lack of familiarity with Australian financial and legal systems, and large differences between Australian and country-of-origin financial systems, can hinder financial literacy. Gender inequality impacts on women’s financial decision-making and economic independence as men often have the dominant role in managing finances within their own families and broader communities.

Let’s Talk Money delivers financial literacy workshops to women in their language, and in known community spaces. It employs and skills up multilingual women from diverse cultural backgrounds to deliver the workshops, purposely recruiting women who have strong community connections, and a first-hand understanding of the life-changing experience that being a migrant or a refugee entails. This builds trust between the peer educators and participants, and enables tailoring of the information they are delivering to meet women’s point in time circumstances. The program also organises onsite childcare to enable women with young children to attend more easily.

Close up of woman

Since its inception in 2017, Let’s Talk Money has employed 18 peer educators to deliver workshops to over 350 women from diverse cultural backgrounds including Indian, Iraqi, Iranian, Syrian, Pakistani, Lebanese and Afghani. This year, the program has expanded to include Mandarin, Cantonese, Somali, Swahili, Arabic and Oromo language-speaking communities.

Born in Pakistan, Aisha* commenced her peer educator training with WHIN in early 2017 and has delivered workshops in Hindi and Urdu to women living in Melbourne’s north-western suburbs. As a result of working as a peer educator for the program, she has received a scholarship to undertake a diploma in financial counselling. “I’ve always wanted to work to develop my community, to both bring them together but to also give them good information. Let’s Talk Money has given me the skills, information and confidence to give financial workshops to my community in our own language. There are no cultural and language barriers. I can offer suggestions, advice, support and empower them. I am playing my part to build a strong and confident community, who can save and budget, realise their life goals, and who can manage their life in a proper way so that they don’t have to deal with debt issues in the future.” Let’s Talk Money gives women the skills to manage their day-to-day finances and to address the financial issues that most concern them –budgeting and saving, how to read bills, online banking and fees, and understanding tenancy contracts. The program also seeks to remove the structural barriers to women’s financial literacy, enabling them to increase their participation in civic and economic life.

“I’ve always wanted to work to develop my community, to both bring them together but to also give them good information. Let’s Talk Money has given me the skills, information and confidence to give financial workshops to my community in our own language. There are no cultural and language barriers. I can offer suggestions, advice, support and empower them. I am playing my part to build a strong and confident community, who can save and budget, realise their life goals, and who can manage their life in a proper way so that they don’t have to deal with debt issues in the future.”

Let’s Talk Money gives women the skills to manage their day-to-day finances and to address the financial issues that most concern them –budgeting and saving, how to read bills, online banking and fees, and understanding tenancy contracts. The program also seeks to remove the structural barriers to women’s financial literacy, enabling them to increase their participation in civic and economic life.

The gendered dynamics surrounding a woman’s economic empowerment are complex and can have a very real impact on a woman’s day-to-day life. Let’s Talk Money provides a safe, female-only space for participants to talk about these issues, often for the first time, and to increase their self-confidence and sense of empowerment through knowledge acquisition. Zimal*, a young woman attending Let’s Talk Money’s financial literacy workshops, describes men’s control over finances and decision-making:

“Everything is just really different here in Australia. In terms of my community where I am from, other females are completely dependent on their males, be it a father or husband figure … [My father] had full control over anything finance-related. And even when it did come time for … for example, Centrelink benefits or anything to do with that, I was completely exempted from that because … ‘I’m under you’. He had control of everything. I’m not saying that all females go through this, but I definitely did.”

Let’s Talk Money is being delivered throughout the northern metropolitan region of Melbourne until October 2020, with plans to reach women from other communities and regions in the future. Let’s Talk Money was independently evaluated in 2018. The Let’s Talk Money Evaluation Report summarises the positive impact of the workshops on the financial wellbeing of migrant and refugee women.

More information on the Let’s Talk Money program can be found here: https://www.whin.org.au/current-work/economic-equality/lets-talk-money/. To learn more about the program and get involved, contact Sandra Morris, Manager Health Promotion, Women’s Health In the North at [email protected] or (03) 9484 1666.

Let’s Talk Money is funded by Ecstra Foundation, the Victorian Government’s Office for Multicultural Affairs and Social Cohesion, the Collier Charitable Fund and the Victorian Women’s Benevolent Trust.


Women’s Health In the North is the women’s health service for Melbourne’s northern metropolitan region and is committed to improving the health, safety and wellbeing of women. www.whin.org.au

*Please note that names have been changed to protect privacy.

Author


Narelle Sullivan

Narelle Sullivan

On behalf of Women’s Health In the North

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