Thursday 8 March this year marked the International Women’s Day 2018 with the theme ‘Press for Progress’, calling for gender parity.

Many events were held around Australia, and worldwide, and one such event closer to home was the one held at Liverpool Hospital on Thursday 8 March 2018 in partnership with Liverpool Women’s Health Centre, Western Sydney MRC, Liverpool Council and NSW Refugee Health Service.

Organised and attended by women only, the MC at the event Sharda Jogia started with a chant to empower the women sitting in the Thomas and Rachael Moore Education Centre before she called upon Aunty Norma Shelley OAM to officiate with the Welcome to Country.

The official welcome was given by Ms Lynda Johnston, Community and Consumer Participation Manager while the two keynote speakers, Carmen Lazar, and Pat Hall gave inspiring speeches, telling about the opportunities and progress for CALD and refugee women, and also for enabling women in small business.

The highlight of the event was the story from Hadeel Aldairy, a Bilingual Community Educator explained about her experience since arriving in Australia.

Having landed in Sydney from Damascus, Syria, after spending two years in Lebanon, she reflected upon how the tragedy of her younger brother being killed changed her life and her family’s life forever.

She came to Australia as a refugee on a humanitarian visa, and after becoming a volunteer was finally able to get a great opportunity to work as a Bilingual Community Educator in the health services and currently as a case manager at the Settlement Service International.

Her full story can be given below:

Greetings to all beautiful women and Happy International Women’s Day.

Before I tell you my story, I would like to acknowledge and thank a few strong women who are here today that have helped and empowered me with my successful journey of settlement in Australia.

First, I would like to thank Ms Mandy Williams and Balwinder Sidhu, the directors of health promotion and women’s health services.

I would like to thank Sharda and Iman for their support and guidance in my journey and I would like to thank my fellow BCEs for being there for me in my good time and when I needed someone to talk to.

My name is Hadeel and I am from Syria. I was born in the city of Daraa but I grew up in Damascus. The city of Jasmine. When I think of Damascus, I smell Jasmine and I can see the flowers around me……

I went to school and then university in Damascus where I completed my bachelor’s degree in social science.

I lived there with my mother, my brothers and sister since my childhood. My mother always encouraged all of us to get a good education and go to university and she would say to us “EVERY ONE OF YOU HAS TO HAVE A DEGREE TO SURVIVE IN THIS LIFE”……… my mother was a teacher for 25 years in Syria and she brought us up with very good values.

In March 2011, the Syrian revolution started in Daraa and spread quickly to all Syrian cities. The regime started killing people straight after the peaceful protests started and my little brother a 27-year-old architect Mohammad was killed.

This incident changed my life and my family’s life. My family escaped from Syria to Lebanon and we stayed there for nearly 2 years. During this time, I worked for the ‘save the children’ organization and in 2014 we were granted our humanitarian visa to come to Australia as refugees.

My mother and I lived with my brother in Liverpool and I started working as a receptionist at a medical center. During this time my family met my husband’s family who were also refugees and we got married.

I continued to study in Australia and I completed certificate III of community services work at TAFE and this encouraged me to seek employment in my field of work.

I was working as a volunteer at settlement services international where I was informed about the recruitment of the bilingual education program in the health services. This was a life changing moment. This is how the story of my dream started. When I came for the interview, I met with Sharda and Iman. This was my very first interview.

Then I received a call from Sharda to let me know that my application for BCE was successful.

During the BCE training, confidence and self-worth were critical. This program taught me how to encourage women to take control of their health and their physical and mental well-being. It also taught me how to encourage them to access employment, education and be part of decision-making processes.

While I was still training, Sharda gave us information on the position of the case manager at the settlement service international and I applied for this position and my application was successful.

This is again a life changing moment for me and has given me so much experience and exposer to different services that now I am confident to apply for other positions.

With the BCE program, I have recently completed other training in heart Smart for women and Diabetes education programs and I am ready to deliver these programs to women in my community.

Becoming part of the BCE program meeting the coordinators and learning from other women has been the most important part of my life here and I will always value it.

I worked hard for a long time and I have a message that I would like to pass to every woman in the world “be brave, have courage and be strong, be a hard-working woman and you can achieve your dreams”.

 Finally, I would like to acknowledge and thank my beautiful and amazing friend Sharda who without, I wouldn’t be where I am now.