By Lisa Miller
The power of events is their ability to bring diverse yet like-minded people together around an important idea to have a conversation that will change the world. This is the best way to describe the Australia for UNHCR Lunch with Kristin Davis that took place in the Ivy Ballroom in the heart of Sydney last month.
Kristin – best known for her role as the loveable romantic Charlotte from the popular television series Sex and the City – joined us to talk about women’s issues, but this time related to the plight of female refugees and their children as part of her role as a UNHCR High Profile Supporter.
From the outset it was clear this was going to be a special lunch. Amazing dignitaries were dotted around the room, such as the head of the Human Rights Commission Gillian Triggs and ex-Queensland Premier Anna Bligh, sitting at tables with women who work directly with female refugees everyday. It was clear that everyone in the room had come to learn more and do more.
Once we had been treated to an amazing main meal, Australia for UNHCR National Director Naomi Steer took the stage with Kristin and we all settled in to hear more about both of their experiences travelling the world's refugee hot spots, particularly in Africa. Kristin’s raw emotional energy around this topic was gripping and quickly brought the room to tears as she spoke of the communities and the women she had formed relationships with in the Democratic Republic of Congo. While her message was distressing at times it was in no way without hope. It was especially enlightening to hear her praise for “Australia for UNHCR” who has distinguished itself as the single-largest private sector provider of programs to prevent sexual and gender-based violence in this region.
Kristin readily acknowledged how celebrity had given her access to refugee projects in ways she might have not otherwise had, but how she wanted to use that celebrity to share the realities people are dealing with through no fault of their own. She spoke passionately about how we all should have the freedom to talk about things that are real, such as the terrible sexual violence used against many women and their families in this region of Africa as a weapon of war during conflict. She also acknowledged the real fear of refugees that was being promoted by the media in both the United States and in Australia, but said "we don't need to be afraid of them, rather we need to be afraid for them".
Kristin’s emphasis (as is Australia for UNHCR’s) is on educating women so they can help themselves and their families as well as setting up services for SGBV victims, counselling and providing legal assistance. Kristin said “When a woman is able to make a living, she’s able to be independent. And the first thing she does is feed her child, and then make sure that they can go to school.”
Even thinking about her words now I can still feel her intensity around this subject, reaffirming why she is such an amazing award-winning humanitarian and renowned animal rights activist. But the biggest message I left this event with was that we can all do something. Kristin said: “as people who were lucky enough to be born in countries that were free, safe and plentiful we have a moral imperative to help those that were not as fortunate.” Something I could not agree with more.
To make this message clear, at the end of her chat Kristin launched the new #iwill campaign which asks people to start conversations around the plight of female refugees, and take further action. And I encourage you now as an EHM reader to visit the Refugee Women website and do just that or donate directly HERE
Davis put it perfectly at the lunch when she stated that “we can’t make things better if we can’t talk about them. Not talking about things that are real to women hurts women".
The lunch raised funds to support women victims of violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Lisa Kate Miller is a business coach and digital strategist who empowers women to build businesses based on what they love.
Photo credits belong to Australia For UNHCR