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Left Behind: Migrant and Refugee Women’s Experiences of COVID-19 Report

In a joint project by Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health, Gender Equity Victoria, and Women’s Health Services, the Workforce of Multilingual Health Educators (WOMHEn) project is pleased to release Left behind: Migrant and refugee women’s experiences of COVID-19 report.
The WOMHEn project was funded by the Victorian Government as part of the Working for Victoria fund, building a regional health promotion workforce to meet the COVID-19 information needs of migrant and refugee women. The project employed 50 women across 10 metropolitan and regional services, with a linguistic diversity of 20 different languages, interviewing women about their experiences of COVID-19 and assisting them to navigate vaccination services.
“As a Health Educator, I am grateful to have had the training and platform to reach out to migrant women, to be able to provide them relevant information in a culturally appropriate way”, said Shweta Kawatra Dakin who is employed as part of WOMHEn project at Women’s Health in the West.
“There needs to be more thought in terms of the extra issues migrant and refugee women face on top of the ones the general population face because we are getting left behind,” said one of the migrant women who participated in an interview.

The report found over 90% of migrant and refugee women experienced multiple hardships as a consequence of COVID-19, including financial stress caused by unemployment and reduced income, housing insecurity, family separation and isolation from communities as well as discrimination in accessing government support, increased hours of unpaid care work, and difficulty accessing healthcare. The combined impact has left mental and physical toll.

“The pandemic has exposed the gendered nature of disaster – the disproportionate impact on women at work, at home and in community. The diverse needs of Victorian women must be at the heart of all disaster planning, response and recovery decision making,” said Tanja Kovac, CEO at GEN VIC “If we don’t want to leave migrant women and children behind in the race to full vaccination and to create equity in healthcare, we need a permanent multi-lingual health education workforce. It just makes sense.”

“We have advocated throughout the pandemic that we need to listen to migrant and refugee women if we are to emerge from this crisis as a healthier and more equitable community,“ said Dr Adele Murdolo, Executive Director at MCWH. “This report demonstrates migrant and refugee women’s leadership in action, it shows that migrant women are the solution and that  understanding their experiences is central to an effective, community-based, preventative response to the pandemic.”

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