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Project summary: EMPOWER: Empowerment and Peer Mentoring of Migrant and Refugee Women.

The Issue: Migrant and refugee women in Australia face unique struggles and encounter language barriers, social isolation, and an absence of social and community networks. In addition, they may have family commitments and limited education, the upshot of which is a lack of opportunities resulting in poor mental health outcomes, loneliness, and difficulties in seeking employment.

Project summary: EMPOWER provided an opportunity for migrant women who have established lives in Australia to mentor migrant and refugee women seeking support. Through a participatory peer mentoring program, EMPOWER aimed to build mentees abilities, confidence, and knowledge to overcome barriers to social determinants of health such as employment.

Relevance for policy/practice: Participants who completed the program reported improved social connection through reduced isolation, a greater personal and professional network, and attendance at community events that facilitated intercultural contact. The findings of this study clearly show that peer mentoring programs for migrant and refugee women can enhance mental health and wellbeing outcomes and facilitate independence. The project contributes to bridging a significant knowledge gap by exploring refugee women’s perspectives in improving employment-seeking strategies using participatory research methods.

Project funding: Healthway Intervention Grant

Who is involved? 

Chief investigator:

  • Jaya Dantas

Project team:

  • Associate Professor Alison Reid (retired), Dr Jonathan Hallett, Dr Shelley Gower, Dr David Forbes, Dr Paul Kebble, Dr Niranjani Wickramasinghe, and Ms Zakia Jeemi

Partner community agencies:

Ishar Multicultural Women’s Health Services, Centacare Employment and Training, The Indian Society of Western Australia (ISWA), The Sri Lankan Cultural Society - WA, United in Diversity and The Mongolian Community in WA

Project website:

Project Outputs: 

Community Report:

  • Dantas, J.A.R., Gower, S., Hallett, J., & Jeemi, Z. (2023). EMPOWER: Empowerment and Peer Mentoring of Migrant and Refugee Women Community Report. ISBN: 978-0-9945338-4-5.


  • Gower S, Jeemi Z, Forbes D, Kebble P, Dantas JAR. Peer Mentoring Programs for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Refugee and Migrant Women: An Integrative Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2022; 19(19):12845.

  • Gower S, Jeemi Z, Dantas JAR. “You Have to Go Gently”: Mentors’ Perspectives of a Peer Mentoring Empowerment Program to Reduce Marginalization in Refugee and Migrant Women. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2022; 19(11):6434.

  • Gower S, Jeemi Z, Wickramasinghe N, Kebble P, Forbes D, Dantas JAR. Impact of a Pilot Peer-Mentoring Empowerment Program on Personal Well-Being for Migrant and Refugee Women in Western Australia. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2022; 19(6):3338.

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