THE Big Issue is celebrating a year of helping Perth women change their lives.
Twelve women who have experienced homelessness or disadvantage have been employed and completed 190 shifts between them for the Women’s Subscription Enterprise since November last year.
They’ve packed more than 20,000 Big Issue subscriptions, along with contract work for Westpac, Palisade and Women in Mining WA.
Harjinder has been with the Enterprise since it launched, and found out about it through a women’s refuge.
“At that time, I needed to come out to the world and interact with people, because I was totally depressed and isolated,” she said.
“It’s really helped me a lot.”
The young woman said her partner controlled who she could speak to, convinced her to leave her job, and subjected her to violence in their home.
“When I left him, I was really scared and my confidence was gone; I didn’t believe in myself,” she said.
“Most of the time I stayed in my room at the refuge and didn’t talk to anyone.”
Then the Women’s Subscription Enterprise came in to Harjinder’s world.
“It was a big change in my life; all the women I work with are like me, the same background, so we understand each other and help each other,” she said.
The Big Issue’s chief operating officer Sally Hines said the Enterprise now operates in cities across Australia.
“It came about because we identified the Big Issue vendor population was predominantly men, but we know homelessness and disadvantage affects genders equally,” she said.
“Our research showed that street selling wasn’t a viable option for many women.”
Ms Hines said domestic violence and child caring duties were big barriers to women selling the magazine.
“We see providing a work opportunity to those who are most disadvantaged as a key way you can lift people out of poverty,” she said.
“Income allows them to make choices, reconnect with family, access health services, and help people help themselves.”
The Women’s Subscription Enterprise group has a strong sense of solidarity and allows the women to work at their own pace, along with developing their skills.
“Before this, I couldn’t make decisions on work placement, now I can; I’m pretty sure about them as well,” Harjinder said.
“It’s helped me to back my confidence.”
Things are looking bright for Harjinder these days.
“Life is good, and I have no regrets,” she said.