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Celebrating International Women’s Day at the English for Sewing Class with Gina Barjeel

By Emma Prineas | April 9, 2024

International Womens Day is a day of acknowledgement for the inequities that still exist for women globally. Migrant and refugee women face intersectionality in particular, their specific challenges multifaceted. Sanja Nikolic is an exceptional example of a young woman who’s facing these challenges head on. After moving to Australia from Serbia, she enrolled in the Youth Class of the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) at NSF Liverpool. Passionate about reaching her goals, and sharing the stories of her fellow learners, we are honoured to now welcome Sanja as our Campus Reporter. Here is her first story as official Reporter for NSF, covering a special event, and a special guest, on International Womens Day.

Sanja Nikolic, campus reporter

As widely known, the 8th of March is internationally commemorated as International Women’s Day to acknowledge the efforts put into establishing equal rights for both women around the world. For eons, discrimination against women has existed in many domains and women’s position in society, business and political life wasn’t even close to the position known nowadays.

Over time, significant effort has been made to change the situation, and today we see versatile, multi-talented, professionally qualified women whose accomplishments are indeed recognized by society. Such women are more than content to share their knowledge and experience and support other women to soar in their careers. One of those women is Gina Barjeel.

Gina Barjeel is an outstanding, renowned, ethnical fashion designer and a devoted teacher at TAFE. In the fashion world, she is recognizable for her luxurious yet sustainable fashion and impressive ethnic motifs that are key parts of all her creations.

She came to Australia from Jordan 6 years ago and as she said, “luckily didn’t find a job”. She started volunteering as a translator and met amazing, unemployed women who had sewing skills. Encouraged by her husband, Gina decided to start her own business and support women she had met. Now, she owns a very successful and flourishing small business, rewarded many times over. She is in charge of the design and pattern making, whereas the employees are in charge of sewing. She keeps meeting wonderful, talented women and encourages them to start their own businesses.

Inspired by different cultures across the world, but also deeply appreciating and acknowledging Australian culture, she creates amazing items with embroidery as her trademark. But one of her personal trademarks is gracefulness; she confirmed once again that modesty is the characteristic of great people.

She visited students at Fairfield College on International Women’s Day and shared her inspirational story with them. Even though she has a very busy business schedule and takes care of her adorable baby, she was eager to come and spend time with students attending English for Sewing Class, knowing that sometimes all we need is a little motivation. Explaining her path from an idea about helping other women skilled for sewing to starting her own label and brilliant business venture she runs today; Gina managed to inspire students and encourage them to continue with their course and one day build up their own businesses. Friendly and approachable as always, she created such a pleasant demeanor that students wanted to show her their work, traditional patterns from their countries and even asked her about job opportunities.

Her impressive lecture was enclosed with a touching message: “Always believe in yourselves! You are incredibly amazing! Women can do a lot of things; we are very strong!”

Launching an English for Sewing Class at Navitas Skilled Futures attracted a lot of attention. It resulted in a large response from women who are very committed to this course and enjoy it very much. The course started on the 2nd of February 2024, and during a few classes students managed to master the use of the sewing machine and created a lot of items, such as: a hairband, a shopping bag, a skirt.

The teacher Mahnaz highlights that those classes are important because the students are not only taught sewing and English, but also life skills. This course builds their confidence, makes them feel satisfied and joyous. After those lessons, the students will be able to adjust their clothes on their own and save money; they could also start their own small business. Seeing their improvements encourages them to keep going.

The teacher noticed a great enhancement and positive changes from the beginning of the course: “Now they see other opportunities and today they were brave enough to approach Gina and ask her for a job.”

Maryam from Iran says that she joined the class to develop her English, but she also learnt how to sew, and up to now she has made a lot of items. She would like to make a dress in the future. 

Nourieh from Afghanistan says: “Now I know how to use a sewing machine, I had it at home and it was just a decoration.” She enjoys making clothes for her daughter and she would love to start her own business one day.

Spending a lovely day at Navitas Skilled Features with incredible Gina, wonderful students, and teacher from English for Sewing Class, I became even more proud to be a part of this school. Inviting renowned guest speakers to discuss their paths to success really helps students discover the connection between theory and real business practice, as well as the connection between persistence and fulfilled dreams. As said earlier, all we sometimes need is a little inspiration and empowerment, especially when we are inexperienced and seeking our own way to achievements. 

This day reminded me of all remarkable women and their triumphs, whether they are our mothers, aunts, sisters, grandmothers who raised us or bluestocking and businesswomen who devoted themselves to making changes and building a better future for all of us.

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