International Women's Day 2024

International Women's Day

This International Women's Day, March 8, we join the global cause to celebrate women's achievements & help raise awareness of gender inequality & discrimination.

As Fella Hamilton did in the 1960's when she worked voluntarily for the Women's Electoral Lobby (WEL), we need to rise up, speak out & make a real change to the independence of women. WEL's mission was to establish a society where women's participation & potential are unrestricted, recognised & respected. Fella authentically embodied this mission, and the company now places significant emphasis on collaborating with organisations that prioritise women, including our partnership with Rotary, Days for Girls, Sisterworks, and Fitted for Work. 

Today to mark this significant and meaningful day, we’re thrilled to spotlight the remarkable Jenny Foster. Currently serving as the Charter President at the Provisional Rotary Club of Global Mission, Jenny is also an esteemed member of the Rotary Club of Albert Park in Melbourne, Victoria.

Jenny From Rotary

Our team at Fella Hamilton are blessed to work with Jenny through our partnership with Rotary and Days for Girls (DfG).

Growing up in a family heavily involved in helping the community, Jenny has not known a life that hasn't been of service to others. When she decided to join Rotary it was motivated by her deep need to help people less fortunate than herself. Her latest venture which is soon to be launching this year, focuses on offering services to women and children in rural communities in Australia and developing countries. We were excited to find out more!

Q&A With Jenny Foster

1. What has your working career looked like over the years?

My working career started as a ballet dancer with The Australian Ballet. While this was a wonderful opportunity, in my mid-20’s I decided that I wanted to try a new profession. What I had especially loved during my time with The Australian Ballet was the travel, so I decided to embark on a career in the travel industry. I worked as a Travel Consultant & then as a Sales Executive. My longest employment was working in sales for United Airlines, before deciding to step away from this career to raise my two children and work part-time as a Project Manager in my husband's Veterinary business. I have also worked as a volunteer in my spare time and this continues now that I've retired from paid work.

2. What is your current role in Rotary & how else have you been involved with Rotary over the years?

I joined Rotary 10 years ago as I wanted to join a global organisation whose main objective was to help others. Rotary International’s motto is 'Service Above Self' and this year’s global theme is 'Create Hope In the World'. My family have always been very involved in helping the community, primarily in rural areas in Australia, so I followed their lead. Today I have agreed to be the Charter President of a new style Rotary Club, that will be known as the Rotary Club of Global Mission. This new venture is planned to launch mid-2024. Our mission will be primarily to offer our services to help rural communities here in Australia and in developing countries, with a key focus on helping women and children. We believe that there is a lot we can do to assist women in these communities, and in turn, this will benefit their children and their future, through maternal health, education and community development projects.

Jenny Visiting water & sanitisation projects in Cambodia.Jenny visiting water & sanitation projects in Cambodia as a volunteer

3. Can you tell us more about the projects you're working on?

One of the projects that we have recently started working on is the establishment of a new Rotary Material Aid Distribution Centre that will be based out of a warehouse in Broadford, Victoria. Here we will accept things such as medical, educational and vocational training items that are surplus to our needs in Australia, and redirect them to communities in need in other parts of the world. An example of our recipients is to help local women develop sewing and trade schools to provide training and employment for school aged children and women, so that young people can become employable. This will be at a very grassroots level - it will provide some hope for people today who can't access higher levels of education. Our aim is to always partner with in-country Rotary Clubs and work with organisations who share the same vision and mission as ourselves. We are also involved in providing items needed for children with disabilities, such as wheelchairs and learning aids, and raising funds for a variety of needs, such as adapting village huts, building toilets and washrooms.

4. What is your involvement with the charity 'Days for Girls International'?

Today I am involved in two ways: Firstly, I volunteer with Days For Girls Australia (Essendon, Melbourne team). This group make reusable menstrual health kits that are shipped to Timor Leste and distributed to girls and women in Balibo. 2. Secondly, I organise fund-raising campaigns via Rotary to support the fantastic work that Days For Girls are doing globally. We currently have an ongoing fundraising campaign to help a very disadvantaged district in Homabay, Kenya. The in-country DfG's outreach ambassadors, together with the local health officers, talk about various issues including the risks of teenage pregnancies, and the spread of AIDS. They provide reusable menstrual health kids, ensuring the girls remain at school and don’t have to stop their education because they have nothing to use when they get their periods. DfGs ambassadors also conduct the ‘Men Who Know’ program, as it is equally important that the young men are also educated.

5. How long have you been involved with Days for Girls?

It began close to 10 years ago when I was asked if I could include the reusable sanitary kits that were being made in Australia, in a medical shipment going to Cambodia. This shipment was a Rotary project and it was at this time that we realised how much more we could do by partnering together. Rotarians were very happy to offer their services to help Days For Girls. Rotary is a global organisation with a network of 1.4 million volunteers who we can reach to for support.

6. What has been the most memorable moment in your career so far?

There have been so many. I truly have been very blessed in where my life journey has taken me, the highlight always being the incredible people I meet along the way. The people who always make the biggest impact on me are those who do not desire to seek fame or fortune, but are there to make someone else’s day a little brighter. One of my most memorable moments was when I was the recipient of the Rotary (District 9800) Champion of Change Award. I received the award at the 2019 International Women’s Day event hosted by Rotary, and held at the Palladium Crown, Melbourne. It was presented to me by the Past Rotary International President. I felt truly honoured to be recognised on this special day, and in many ways it provided me with the encouragement to keep going in this area that I am very passionate about - advocating for women’s rights and especially marginalised women.

7. What are some of your future career aspirations?

My greatest desire is to mentor young people and to see them shine. I believe that we can provide them with a ‘light of hope’ in their life journey and that we should always focus on providing a ‘hand up’, not a ‘hand-out’. Developing and empowering young leaders is a passion of mine, and we can provide this within the framework of the new Rotary Club of Global Mission.

8. What has been your association with Fella Hamilton?

Living in Essendon I am well aware of Fella Hamilton as there is a store near me. Many local women in Essendon speak very highly of the wonderful service at Fella Hamilton. I was made more aware of the company's generosity to help others through my association with Days For Girls Australia. Fella Hamilton partners with DfG by donating time and expertise in cutting the waterproof fabric components for making the menstrual pads that are sewn by DfG's volunteers around Australia. Fella Hamilton has now cut over 40,000 components. Giving back to others is so rewarding and it provides me with a sense of purpose. so I love being associated with organisations like Fella Hamilton who also place such a high value on giving.

9. Have you ever faced gender inequality in the workplace & if so, how?

I certainly have, especially as a young mother in 1990’s when there was very little flexibility in the workplace to accommodate women wanting to continue in their corporate careers. We have certainly come a very long way in Australia since then, including now having paid maternity leave.

10. How do you feel about International Women’s Day & what it stands for?

To me, International Women’s Day is a time to celebrate how far we've come in recognising girls and women across the globe, and to recognise all that they contribute to our homes, our workplaces and our communities. We must continue to strive for a gender equal world - where women must always be valued and welcome to take a seat at all tables. Those that can, must continue to be a voice for marginalised women who do not, or cannot, speak up for themselves!

11. What would be your advice for young women with regards to gender inequality?

As we continue to work towards gender equality, we need to remember to be kind, compassionate and respectful to everyone. Sustainable change so often does not often happen fast, and we must always take the time to bring others along on the journey. This includes paying attention to how our young men are accommodated along this pathway. The past we must learn from, the future is a new path forward where we should all work in unity regardless of gender, as we all strive for a better, brighter and more inclusive world.

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