21 April 2020

Global Sisters is improving the lives of Canberra women

| Jane Speechley
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Given it’s International Women’s Day, and particularly given this year’s theme is to #BeBoldForChange, I wanted to talk about an incredible charity I’ve been involved with for a number of years now, that’s helping women get successful and sustainable businesses off the ground.

On IWD each year, and throughout the year, discussion often turns to how we can best help and support people in need, especially those living below the poverty line and marginalised (for a variety of reasons) from mainstream employment.

For these people, setting up their own small business is often a very viable solution. But for someone who has been rejected from employment time and time again … who may never have worked for any real length of time … for someone who is battling health issues, language barriers, or just struggling to find transport and affordable child care – can you imagine anything more terrifying?

This topic particularly comes up in conversations about women’s rights, because we have a wealth of knowledge and evidence to prove that a woman’s ability to build and maintain an income is a big factor in her family’s economic position, and in fact, in that of her entire community.

It’s a women’s issue because women face particular barriers in accessing suitable employment – not least of which is bearing the lion’s share of responsibility for child care. Whether you think it’s right or not, it’s a fact – and it’s a real problem when a woman needs to be able to work, to make enough money to support her family.

That’s where Global Sisters comes in. It’s an incredibly successful and growing national charity, that actually has its roots in Canberra.

PakaoPakao Sorn, who arrived in Canberra as a refugee from Burma, is growing her business ‘Red Owl’ with the help of Global Sisters

Global Sisters is dedicated to assisting financially excluded women who dream of rising above their current circumstances and start their own micro businesses. It was founded by Mandy Richards, who first began to develop the idea when she was manager of the ACT Social Enterprise Hub.

Founding partners of Global Sisters include Canberra’s own Snow Foundation. The ‘profit for purpose’ organisation also received a much-needed boost through a Funding Network event held here last year, that allowed Global Sisters to appoint a dedicated local manager to help more women and families in our region.

Over the past 7 months, Global Sisters Canberra has helped 11 women transform their skills and hobbies into a micro business that will support them financially and also bring much needed confidence and faith in themselves.

jennifer lJennifer Lowe has found such success through Global Sisters, with her business Teepaw, that she’s now helping, supporting and mentoring other business women.

The program involves four essential parts, which collectively allow the ‘Sisters’ to harness their potential and accelerate an idea into a thriving business.

  1. Business know-how: In Canberra, Global Sisters is currently running a Sister School at Companion House every Monday. The Sister School is a practical business education program that provides teaching and development support and also enables Canberra Sisters to get their business ideas off the ground.
  2. Marketing and Sales: Global Sisters provide product and service development support, a business directory and marketing tools as well as a variety of sales channels and opportunities including corporate and home selling events and an online store. Canberra-based Sisters regularly take part in the monthly Canberra Airport Market.
  3. Microfinance: Global Sisters provides affordable, accessible and safe micro-loans to kick-start businesses and is working toward providing appropriate micro-insurance to help women protect their business.
  4. Technology: Critical to any business in this day and age, the Global Sisters technology platform is essential for reaching women far and wide. We provide social media knowledge and help them establish and promote their business online.

samornSamorn Sanixay is an accomplished artist and business woman who is also a coach and mentor with Global Sisters.

Global Sisters Canberra is committed to helping its Sisters move from government welfare dependence to sustainable self-employment.

And at a time when governments are talking a lot about innovation and entrepreneurship, and we’re seeing increasing media and public pressure to find ways to reduce welfare dependence … Global Sisters is one of few charities that are putting the pieces together, and really doing something about it at the grassroots level.

For a woman who has struggled to secure a job, to actually consider setting up her own business, is a huge step and an incredibly brave decision. That’s why the IWD theme, to #BeBoldForChange, is so relevant.

If you want to help, check out the website and online shop at globalsisters.org and bookmark it for the next time you’re shopping for a special treat or gift.

If you want to do more, maybe join the community as a business coach or share your unique industry expertise, please contact Global Sisters Canberra Lead Pranjali Palnitkar on pranjali@globalsisterscanberra.org

Top Caption: Global Sisters’ Canberra network included mentor Amanda Bresnan, business women Pakao Sorn and Jennifer Lowe, and business coach Samorn Sanixay.

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