Giving Compass’ Take:
• Migrant and refugee women in Melbourne are employed by social enterprises to make masks during the COVID-19 lockdown.
• In what other ways can social enterprises help address needs during the pandemic?
• Read how other innovators are tackling coronavirus creatively.
You’d be hard-pressed to find many positives from Melbourne’s latest, six-week COVID-19 lockdown.
But increased economic and employment opportunities for migrant, refugee, and asylum seeker women is one of them.
With face masks now mandatory in Melbourne, social enterprises that employ migrant, refugee, and asylum seeker women in Victoria have shifted operations to focus on manufacturing face coverings in order to keep vulnerable women in jobs.
Ifrin Fittock, the chief executive of not-for-profit social enterprise SisterWorks, says her team of employees, who all work from home, has grown from eight to 30 and produce between 7,000 and 10,000 masks per week.
Each week, Fittock said SisterWorks is able to employ a further one to two employees thanks to the success of the masks.
“They are very excited because this is an opportunity for them to try and earn some income and work from home,” Fittock told SBS News. “It’s definitely a silver lining kind of situation, where some of the sisters’ husbands have lost jobs and are not working anymore.”
SisterWorks seeks to improve the “confidence, mental wellbeing and sense of belonging” for migrant, refugee and asylum seeker women. The enterprise typically produces ethically made homewares, handmade body care, jewellery and toys.
According to Fittock, their main income stream stems from in-person speaking engagements and market stalls — which have all dried up in the past few months. Fittock says without the mask opportunity, SisterWorks may have been forced to close.
Like SisterWorks, not-for-profit organisation The Social Studio has pivoted its workforce to produce masks.
Chief Executive Cate Coleman has urged all Melburnians to purchase masks, where possible, from social enterprises that focus on skills training and employment opportunities for refugees and migrants — as opposed to large supermarkets and chemists.
Read the full article about migrant and refugee women by Madeleine Keck at Global Citizen.
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