Written by Junhao Tan
Edited by Amra Naidoo
What happens to women who have been convicted of crime once they are out of prison? Are they ever really given a second chance in life?
There’s no doubt that the stigma attached to women who have served multiple prison sentences is a complicated issue. Not only can potential employers be off-put with the idea of an employee with a criminal history but, with women typically seen as a care-giver or nurturer, women with a prior conviction are viewed in stark contrast to this stereotype and are often viewed as having brought it upon themselves with having the choice to do bad, instead of good. What isn’t always highlighted, or clear is how much of this is due to intergenerational family violence and crime?
Steps in Rachel Bauer, volunteer for Reclaim Another Woman (RAW), an organization that focuses on providing a safe living environment, education and life skills to address barriers faced by women offenders released back into their communities after prison. But RAW is more than just that. RAW endeavors to run an entrepreneur program, which will assist the female participants to match their skills to a suitable business opportunity, to source for financial assistance and provide business mentoring.
When asked about her decision to get involved with RAW, Rachel says, “A few years ago I came across another organization who works with women to assist them with gaining employment. They assist with providing work appropriate clothing, job interview skills/training, CV creation and a support group with other women who have also used the assistance of this organization. This opened my eyes to just how unequal the opportunities can be for women and that we need to support each other and provide a leg up where possible for other women to succeed. In 2015 I listened to Diane Foreman, a very successful New Zealand businesswoman speak, and one thing she said that resonated with me was that it is important we leave the ladder down for other women to have opportunities to be successful and follow their dreams.”
According to studies, the prevalence of female offenders is between 8% and 18.3% depending on the studies in industrial countries. Experts concur that the most common pathways to crime for female re-offenders are based on survival and substance abuse, with most of them young, poor, and under-educated, afflicted with complex histories of trauma and substance abuse.
Asked what she does on a day to day basis to help lift women from the vicious cycle of reoffending, Rachel said, “I am on hand to assist with the ongoing marketing support for RAW following the completion of a Strategic Marketing Plan earlier this year. Alongside this I am assisting with the development of content for the Entrepreneur Programme workshops with the intention of facilitating workshops next year. I am also working one on one or in small groups to coach the women in areas such as using technology for their education and career. With my Rotary club I volunteer alongside the women on Rotary projects, befriending the women as part of providing acceptance and support from the wider community and talk to people whenever possible about RAW.”
Taking it in to her own hands by setting up these figurative ladders, Rachel and RAW are an inspiration and are the reason why they’ve been selected as a Project Inspire 2016 semi-finalist. As they compete for a spot as a Top 10 Finalist, they are participating in a crowdfunding campaign of which proceeds will go towards setting up learning laboratories, entrepreneur workshops and other learning resources to support the women as they take steps towards entrepreneurship. With volunteers like Rachel at the helm, you can be sure that the resources will be maximized for the greater good of women’s welfare.