4S: Sustainable & Social Suppliers' Stories
An organisation that is creating opportunities for women to get ahead in life through empowerment, learning, earning and becoming financially independent.
WOMEN ARE STRONGER TOGETHER
In Early 2011 more than 25 female migrants, asylum seekers and refugees banded together to sell arts and crafts, creating something so strong that 2 years later evolved into SisterWorks.
Hard work and almost a decade later, SisterWorks has grown into a successful not-for-profit social enterprise that supports women from the migrant, asylum seeker and refugee communities.
WHO ARE THEY
SisterWorks is a not-for-profit social enterprise, based in Melbourne. Through work and entrepreneurship, SisterWorks’ mission is to support women who are migrants, asylum seekers or refugees so that they can improve their confidence, mental wellbeing, sense of belonging and economic outlook. Their vision is for Australia to be a place where all women have the opportunity to be economically empowered. So far they have supported almost 500 women from 56 different countries.
HOW IT STARTED
At the age of 45, as a medical doctor and a communications expert, Luz Restrepo arrived in Australia in 2010 seeking political asylum. Her life was in tatters and she spoke no English. She felt like a nobody: frightened, isolated and disempowered. Luz soon discovered that she was not alone.
In 2011, along with a group of 25 women experiencing similar challenges, Luz began to make and sell crafts around Melbourne. She understood that to support each other is also to strengthen each other.
SisterWorks Inc. was born in May 2013 when a committee of volunteers joined Luz with legal, fund-raising, marketing and administrative skills to give support and structure to the project.
SisterWorks’ SOLUTION MODEL: WORK EMPOWERS WOMEN.
The SisterWorks Model is open to women of all skill levels. Their model is centred around empowerment, fostering a sense of independence and providing opportunities. The Model brings together three key elements:
- Learning by Doing: Migrant and refugee women are engaged in different roles within the organisation as participants, entrepreneurs, volunteers or staff members. They ‘learn by doing’ about how to work in Australia.
- Community: SisterWorks recognises and teaches the importance of community and the power of camaraderie amongst women. They support and uplift its members to regain their ‘personal voice’ in Australia.
- Financial Incentives: This social enterprise shows women that they can add value and earn money, despite the barriers they have faced in gaining employment. This improves the women’s confidence in their skills and abilities. SisterWorks encourages women to explore options to earn money in two ways. The first is through paid work to produce SisterWorks Label products while learning new skills. The other way is through business mentoring with the goal to establish their own micro-business.
SisterWorks also provides established platforms—such as retail and online stores—to sell these products.
THEIR SOCIAL IMPACT, IN NUMBERS:
SisterWorks’ social commitment is to empower migrant, refugee and asylum seeker women.
Over the period from 2015 to 2019, a SROI (Social Return on Investment) analysis found that they generated positive social value for migrant women, volunteers, customers, and the Government:
- For every $1 invested, SisterWorks generated $2.40 of social, economic and cultural value.
- 225 migrant women have earned additional income through SisterWorks.
- 65% of the migrant women are running their own micro-businesses.
A sense of belonging is the most valued outcome by migrant women, estimated at over $450,000 in value. SisterWorks plays a critical role in supporting women in Australia on their pathway towards social and economic inclusion.
Additionally, they maintain a commitment to producing ethical and sustainable products. Their women participate in weekly workshops to make products that include homewares, body care, accessories and food. All these products are handmade using locally sourced materials. There are also a range of products created as an alternative to single-use plastic and paper, such as beeswax wraps, lunch bags, bread bags, sandwich wraps, produce bags, tea towels and tote bags.
HOW CAN YOU BRING SISTERWORKS INTO YOUR BUSINESS?
Sisterworks already has some important corporate partners, including Australia Post, City of Melbourne, Kathmandu, Ritchies IGA, RMIT, Deloitte, NAB, JetStar and Crown. The ways in which they work with these partners is fun and varied, and includes:
-SisterWorks pop-up markets at workplaces;
-Corporate gift hampers;
-SisterWorks speaking engagements;
-Creative team building workshops, where you can learn to make one of their Sister’s products; and
-Upcycling projects where Sisters can create practical products out of old company materials, for example SisterWorks upcycled City of Melbourne travel banners into reusable shopping bags.
When you buy from Sister Works, you are able to contribute to many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals such as Goal #1 No Poverty, Goal #5 Gender Equiality Goal #8 Decent Work and Economic Growth and Goal #10 Reduced Inequalities.
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