Every migrant woman has a story, are you ready to share yours?
Women are writing their Migration Stories in an innovative new programme “The Tongue Set Free”
Sydney, March 2022- Key Into Australia Inc., a registered Australian Charity is supporting migrant women’s mental health by inviting them to share their untold stories. This programme entitled “The Tongue Set Free” is supported by Multicultural NSW. It is currently recruiting more volunteers and participants.
Multicultural women around Sydney are finding an unexpected new way to connect: by writing stories together. Multicultural NSW has given Key Into Australia the chance to provide free workshops to women with migrant backgrounds (first and second generation) who want to write their stories and even get them published!
“Writing a story is a kind of magic,” says Viva Hammer, renowned Autralian-American writer and teacher who is leading the workshops. “It can preserve a joyful moment, or rid us of a painful one.”
In the writing workshops that have been held to date by Key Into Australia, women from 15 countries, speaking at least as many languages have written stories together – in English.
“The structure of the workshop is really important,” Viva, the workshop leader says. “You give people tools, they go back in time and find the gems in their memories, the colours and tastes and smells of where they’ve come from. Then, they can turn the memories into stories.”
Because the KIA writing workshops have been held online, they have attracted women from all parts of Sydney and NSW, and from the entire age span. Some women migrated to Australia during the lockdown, while others had been there for many years, some Australian-born women whose parents migrated also attended. People who would never have a chance to meet each other are sharing intimate vignettes from their pasts, and shaping the ideas into new packages.
Fledgeling writers at the KIA workshops have been inspired to think of their ordinary experiences as worthy of sharing with the world. After her first workshop, one woman immediately sent a piece for publication – and was accepted! “What a thrill to discover this enormous online world of writing and reading!” Says [Ellie, from Iran] who had her 50 word story published soon after coming to the KIA workshop.
“Writing stories brings out the creative side we don’t often have a chance to explore,” says Maia Saxena, co-founder of KIA, and an immigrant from France who has participated in all the writing workshops, with her 3 month old baby in her arms. “The Tongue Set Free is about releasing untold stories, using your tongue – your voice organ as well as your native tongue. There is something liberating about sharing these stories which we’ve kept hidden from others and sometimes from us. I beleive it supports migrant women’mental health.“
What’s next for this exciting programme? Writing workshops for women in their own languages! “We always wanted this amazing experience to reach women in the language that’s most meaningful for them,” says Novela Corda, an immigrant from India and co-founder of KIA. “After the success of the English language programme, we’ve asked Viva to train women who can take this into the rainbow of languages that enrich this diverse city.”