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Social enterprise Made by Many Hands gives migrant and refugee women the opportunity to become financially independent

Jewish businesswoman Corinne Kemp is a co-founder of Made by Many Hands, a social enterprise that gives migrant and refugee women the opportunity to sell their wares online and become financially independent.

The venture aims to break down barriers migrant women commonly face, such as limited access to marketing tools, lower commercial and technical literacy, and challenging financial circumstances. More than 40 women from all over the world are on the platform.

Essentially, Kemp said, she and her co-founders set out to “level the playing field”.

“When COVID-19 first hit our shores in early 2020, we knew that the migrant and refugee community would be hit hard,” she said. “Creating an online marketplace where migrant women could sell their products from the safety of home was one way that I could make a difference.”

She said the environment is one in which “the women we work with are given a hand up, not a hand out. It’s an important distinction which encourages the women we work with to believe in their own business ideas and capacity,” she said.

“We’re all online shopping either to send a gift of cheer to a friend that we can’t see in person, or perhaps to cheer ourselves up in lockdown. What better way to make that gift go further than by buying local and supporting a migrant entrepreneur building her life in Australia.”

Melbourne-based Elizabeth Risman, a Jewish immigrant from the former Soviet Union, sells dolls on the site. Educated as an economist in the USSR, with limited English, Liza found employment in a sewing factory to support her family after arriving in Australia with the help of the Jewish Welfare Organisation in 1979.

Following her retirement, Liza began sewing and knitting dolls first for fun, and then to supplement her pension. “I am grateful for the pension I receive and it allows me to live a comfortable life, but the extra money I make from my dolls helps me to afford little luxuries like going to concerts, the theatre and travel,” she said. “While my children would gladly pay for these things, I don’t want that. I like to look after myself.”

Risman has also taken other migrant women under her wing – encouraging them to use their craft to earn a living and find their place in the community. “It’s important that I tell my story to migrant women that have just arrived in Australia, so that they can see that it’s possible to use your craft to make a living here,” she said. “They don’t have to work in a factory like I did. They can do something that they love.”

For more info go to: www.madebymanyhands.com.au

Source: The Australian Jewish News – 29/10/2021, ‘A hand up, not a hand out’

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