On March 1, in the lead up to International Women’s Day, the United Nations Information Centre Canberra, International Organization for Migration, the Canberra Multicultural Community Forum and the Canberra Multicultural Women Forum held a community event to promote the ‘Together, Safety and Dignity for All Initiative’ . It was also an opportunity to promote the recent establishment of the Canberra Multicultural Women’s Forum (the Women’s Forum).
Opening the event the Chair of the Women’s Forum, Ms Laura Aoun noted that many of the people in the audience were living proof that those from migrant and refugee backgrounds have enriched Canberra and Australia more broadly in ‘more ways than we realize’.
The Director of the UNIC Canberra, Mr Christopher Woodthorpe, noted the similarities between the Women’s forum – which bases it work on equal participation of women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds – and the UN’s Together Initiative – which seeks to promote the importance of such work. In closing he invited everyone to celebrate women, rejoice in diversity and to come together.
Chief of Mission for IOM, Mr Jo Appiah, in his speech said that “on International Women’s Day the International Organization for Migration (IOM) embraces the official United Nations theme, Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030, by honoring migrant women and girls and called for us all to take a moment to recognize not just their specific contributions but also their challenges”.
Inter-dispersed between speeches the over one hundred strong audience was privy to two fine performances – firstly by the local ACT Chinese Australian Association Ladies Dance Group followed by the pace of some very colorful Colombians.
The keynote speech of the night was given by Her Excellency the High Commissioner of Pakistan, Naela Chohan during which she said that “today there is a growing number of women in conflict situation compelled to become refugees and migrants. It is indeed among the most urgent humanitarian challenges of our times. Much of this displacement has neither been voluntary nor orderly. People particularly women and children have been fleeing from desperate conditions of conflict, war or poverty. These helpless women and children on the move, deserve compassion and humane treatment”.