Commencing in May 2021, the Workforce of Multilingual Health Educators (The WoMHEn Project) Gippsland was one of 12 regional projects across Victoria, bringing together Gippsland Women’s Health and Gippsland Multicultural Service in an innovative community approach to health and wellbeing for bilingual and migrant women.
The WoMHEn Project aimed to bring multicultural women’s health educators into Gippsland to provide educational information and support to communities, in relation to COVID-19. Led by the Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health (MCWH), the WoMHEn Project established a much-needed multilingual women’s health education infrastructure across the state. This project highlighted the gendered impacts of COVID-19 on Victorian women, and that migrant and multicultural women have been disproportionally impacted during this time. Our Gippsland project is focused on the Latrobe area, with health educators providing language sessions, as well as access to COVID-19 resources in over 20 languages.
An open discussion with multicultural women – prior to enforcing rules – would help women raise their voice, have a say and understand better without fear. Religious and cultural beliefs of multicultural women should be taken into consideration by governments. More choice and flexibility for immigrants should be expected. – Latrobe woman.
The WoMHEn Project team offered both online and in-person health education sessions on issues such as the COVID-19 vaccination rollout, mental health, sexual and reproductive health and family violence. The project also utilised collecting photos, interviews, and videos to engage with the community and explore their experiences and difficulties since the pandemic. It aimed to go into the community, listen to refugee and migrant women, and use that information to develop resources, and build pathways to engaging, effective, empowering and respectful education.
On 28 July 2021, the team reached out to 10 local health service providers and 12 community leaders in Latrobe through a community engagement session. The Zoom session – attended by leaders of multicultural community organisations – was held to introduce the WoMHEn Project and the all-women team of health educators. Until the end of September 2021, more than 60 community members with different cultural backgrounds directly joined us through three health education sessions and photo-sharing / filming activities, including people of Indian, Filipino, Chinese, Italian, Serbian, Thai, Polish, Greek, German, Korean, Maltese and Malaysian nationalities.
You are [all] doing an amazing job. People like us need to have activities like getting together and COVID-19 sessions, especially during current hard times.
Across the WoMHEn activities, most participants expressed their anxiety and struggle both at home and the workplace. However, their willingness to share their stories impressed the team and each session received highly positive comments. It is evident that our multicultural women remain vulnerable and at risk. Gaps in accessing health information – particularly during the peaks of the COVID -19 pandemic – by multicultural women were identified during these sessions. By the end of 2021, two additional health service providers in Latrobe began building a long-term relationship with our bilingual health educators to provide the local multicultural community with better access to health information.
We extend our thanks to Gippsland Multicultural Service for their significant contributions. In 2022, The WoMHEn Project team continued to create a safe and comfortable space as a bridge for multicultural women to talk about their health and wellbeing, and to provide better access to health services.
Thank you for your wonderful project, and [for the] chance for people in the community to share their stories and struggles. The resilience and courage of the participants is something to be acknowledged.
The WoMHEn Project in 2022 | Highlights
- 250 migrant and refugee women engaged in Latrobe
- 18 health education sessions
- 87% increase in knowledge and awareness of COVID-19 and health after the session
- 15 Community Education Sessions with local supports and services
The WoMHEn Project ended in July 2022.