Each week we will be running Q&As with Australian women doing vital humanitarian and aid work. Women you may not have heard of.
With that in mind, let us introduce you to Briony Mackenzie and Carmen Hawker, founding members of The Global Women’s Project.
What does your role entail on a day-to-day basis?
As The Global Women’s Project is still in its early stages, both of us are really required to be a ‘Jill of all trades,’ so there’s really nothing that we don’t do! On a day-to-day basis though, our roles entail developing and monitoring our international programs, liaising with our grassroots partners, engaging the global community in conversations about gender equality and just generally smashing gender stereotypes all day! We love collaborating and meeting like-minded people and regularly attend events that get us thinking about ways we could be doing things better and how to innovate harder.
How did you become involved in humanitarian/aid work?
Carmen: For me, there wasn’t this one moment where I thought ‘this is what I’m going to do with my life’. I’ve never really questioned that I would fight for everyone to have the same rights I’m lucky enough to have. I have always been passionate about learning new things, hearing people’s stories, women’s rights, global issues and social justice. I want to see equality in my lifetime. It’s as simple as that. I know Briony feels the same and so we started up The Global Women’s Project with a couple of other similarly passionate young women and the rest is ‘herstory’!
Briony: The penny really dropped for me when I was travelling through India and the Middle East. I’d always felt really passionately about social justice and, in particular, women’s struggles for gender equality. I feel so grateful that I’ve always had opportunities, rights and a voice and I know many women aren’t so lucky. I’m really about helping to amplify their voices and being part of a larger movement that works to increase women’s opportunities and rights.
What are the most rewarding/challenging parts of your job?
We don’t really see there being a separation between ‘work’ and ‘life’ as if your job is something you do with your day and then you switch off and live your life. We both approach what we do as our life’s work and it seeps across every area in our lives, often in the most wonderful ways. The rewarding parts of the work are many: seeing tangible changes in women’s lives and the impact that has on their family and community. Witnessing that moment a woman realises that she can do anything is incredible.
We enjoy supporting our grassroots partners to learn more skills and scale their impact and likewise, we love learning things from them and hearing their ‘war stories’, so to speak. We also love when the community gets involved and runs a fundraiser or gives us words of encouragement on social media. Those little things make our lives a lot happier and the work a lot easier.
Challenges can be plentiful in this line of work and some of our major headaches are caused by uncertain funding environments, corruption, gender inequality, blatant discrimination and also a lack of resources. We try not to dwell on these too much – we’d rather spend our energy looking for new opportunities to disrupt the status quo and innovate new ways of working towards gender equality.