The promotion of gender equality is key to the work of ASPIRE Penang.
This is challenging in a world of gender inequality and in strongly patriarachal cultures that define many of the refugee communities.
Creating opportunities for women and girls to participate in educational initiatives and in community discussions has been a consistent part of our work. This means both creating opportunities for women to meet together in safe spaces, as well as to participate in activities such as computer and English classes.
The importance of this work is that if we do not change the situation where the concerns and involvement of women and girls are not given priority, women and girls will continue to be seen as 'soft-targets', against whom violence and denigration are perpetrated with impunity.
One specific initiative, launched in 2020, involves sponsoring a series of 16-hour, multi-session workshops for women, community and religious leaders to understand and address the issue of child marriage among refugees in Penang. For more information on this issue, click here.
We do not underestimate the long-term challenge of this work. Women's empowerment cannot be 'bought off the shelf', on demand. It is very much part of our overall long-term community building which sets step by step targets and initiatives to ensure the increasing involvement and agency of refugees generally, and refugee women specifically.
Women participating in a training organised by one of our partners, JREC
Women learning new skills, opening up options for the future