On the ground floor of a Melbourne inner city housing commission flat lives a small yet bustling commercial kitchen.
Catering company, The Sorghum Sisters - named after the main ingredient in Ethiopian injera bread - represents the diversity of African cuisine. It was established in 2005 - initially, to engage the skills of African refugee women in housing commission.
With the support of settlement agency AMES, the social enterprise slowly found success, and has since seen around 1,300 women find gainful employment after the program.
“Most of these women, when they came here, they have been in refugee camps for a long period of time. They haven't worked, or earned their own income,” says AMES Manager Dr Melika Yassin Sheikh-Eldin.
“So, to start with them from the very beginning and tell them that it's possible, there's nothing impossible, if you have the will and the right support.”
At The Sorghum Sisters, the women can put their cooking skills to use. Traditional dishes such as fatira, falafel, and injera are batch-made for corporate clients such as LaTrobe University.
“Here in Australia, we are in a multicultural country. And we are lucky, you know, to have the whole world in one place. Those women, they know how to cook, and they can find the right ingredients here in Australia, so why not encourage them to bring things that they know, and share it with others?” Dr Sheikh-Eldi says.
It’s not only an opportunity for these women to share their culture with the rest of the community, it’s also a place for these women to gain work experience. They’re able to obtain qualifications, such as food handling certificates, and also build upon their English skills.
Egyptian migrant Souzet Yacoub joined the Sorghum Sisters in 2011. After raising her four children for ten years, she wanted to enter the workforce.
She says, “We have nice teamwork here, good teamwork, we're all working as one family, and maybe that makes us very special, and makes us happy.”
“Back in our country, we didn't have this opportunity, but now we have the opportunity to find ourselves, to settle in.”
While women are a priority, men are involved in the social enterprise too.
“Some of the men, they say, we want to support our wives, our sisters, our mothers, and they have some skills,” says Dr Sheikh-Eldi says.
At the end of the day, it’s all about achieving equality.