About the WOMHEn Project.
We’ve employed 50 migrant and refugee women to form a rapid response health workforce. Funded by the Working for Victoria initiative, we’re training these health educators to disseminate COVID-19 information and deliver multilingual health education in over 20 languages to migrant and refugee women.
About the Project
COVID-19 had a disproportionate impact on migrant and refugee women, and their communities. We know that migrant and refugee women have expertise and insight. That their experiences and understanding of their community must shape the way we educate and respond to health issues and crisis.
It’s this expertise we seek to harness. We’re training health educators to go into the community and listen to refugee and migrant women. We’re using that information to develop resources and education that will make engagement effective, faster, empowering and respectful.
Recruitment and Training
We were overwhelmed by applicants across Victoria for the project.
Recruitment itself highlighted the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on migrant and refugee women. As stated above from one health educator, there is enormous need in the community for health education as well as many talented and skilled migrant and refugee women who have been placed under enormous financial strain.
At GEN VIC, there were over 300 high-quality applications for each position. We know definitively that the talent is there, as well as the need.
Led by the Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health we are proud to establish this much-needed multilingual women’s health education infrastructure across the state, both in metro and regional Victoria.
Introducing our Workforce of Multilingual Health Educators
GEN VIC and MCWH, along with 12 women’s health services, have built a workforce of over 40 bilingual health educators to go into multilingual communities to improve access to COVID-19 health information. Through this project we’ve managed to reach over 1800 migrant and refugee women.
Scaling up preventative health education and promotional workforce that specifically responds to the needs of migrant and refugee women will take time.
We’re training our educators to first engage with the community before delivering health education. We want to know what migrant and refugee women feel is missing, and ensure that their concerns are answered.
Vitally though, recording and documenting the stories of migrant and refugee women who have struggled during and after COVID-19 is important knowledge creation.
We are proud to announce an extension of WOMHEn project – Phase 2. For another six months these key health educators will be able to continue outreach to migrant and refugee communities. During this phase, the project will mainly focus on COVID-19 vaccine take-up in Multilingual communities.
We collaborated with 40 health educators to identify community barriers and confidence in accessing COVID-19 vaccination, COVID-19 boosters and vaccination for children. After attending training, health educators engaged community members through community engagement surveys, IWD celebrations, interview workshops and the collection of stories from migrant and refugee women about their experiences with COVID-19 vaccination and the reasons for associated hesitancy.
So far, 170 C0VID-19 vaccinations have been booked or received by migrant and refugee women involved in this program.
We have reached 1117 Migrant and Refugee women through 75 vaccine health education sessions. They were delivered as peer-to-peer in language model sessions to remove the language barriers.
Phase II of WOMHEn project was successful in identifying some of the key barriers to COVID-19 vaccinations in migrant and refugee women and finding effective solutions to combat the problem.
Difficulty in comprehending the COVID-19 vaccine related information, fear of getting vaccinated, problems with easy access to booking the vaccination slots and myths and misinformation related to vaccinations were some of the major barriers in getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
Low receptiveness of migrant and refugee women to COVID-19 vaccination for children - Uncertainty and concerns about the side effects of COVID-19 vaccinations in children prevented the women to get their children vaccinated. They were fearful that the COVID-19 vaccine would be too painful for their children.
The road ahead
Boosting women's health and well-being should be a top priority in the recovery and resilience from the COVID-19 pandemic. Voices of gender equity should be effectively reflected in COVID-19 policy by investing sufficiently in Women's health and welfare sector.
The peer-to-peer in-language model for delivering health education is effective and should be incorporated into how we provide health services to migrant and refugee women.
We hope our final report will reflect genuine voices and a remarkable step towards change to our stakeholder and to our community.