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Breaking Barriers, Building Futures: Women's Empowerment through skill development and vocational training

By Sally Irwin, Founder, The Freedom Hub

The empowerment of women is a critical step towards building a more equitable society. Education, specifically through skill development and vocational training, plays a pivotal role in this empowerment process, particularly for those vulnerable to cycles of victimisation and poverty. It offers a pathway for women to break free from their past circumstances and forge a path towards self-reliance and independence.

According to UNESCO (1), education increases women's chances of employment - women with primary education are 1.5 times more likely to find employment compared to those with no education. This likelihood increases with higher levels of education.

World Bank reports (2) affirm that increasing female education improves their ability to make decisions and influence households, and this empowerment leads to tangible outcomes such as improved family health and economic growth.

There are many reasons why women and girls are not receiving the education they need. These include: poverty, cultural norms and gender bias dictating their roles in life; early marriage, lack of accessibility to schooling, inadequate sanitation for menstruation, forced labour, conflict, climate instability, trauma and mental health issues from physical and/or sexual abuse.

Consequently, for many women the traditional education system is not a reality or even a possibility. This is where skill development and vocational training come into play. When a woman breaks away from any of the above barriers to education, strengthening  her skills and providing vocational training is essential to her empowerment. These programs are tailored to provide practical, hands-on skills that are directly applicable to the job market. This ‘skills approach’ not only equips women with the necessary tools to secure employment but also instils a sense of confidence and self-worth.

However, it's not just about imparting skills; it's about doing so in an environment that understands and respects the unique challenges that these women face. They require an approach that is sensitive to their experiences. This is where organisations like ours, The Freedom Hub, play a crucial role.

The Freedom Hub Survivor Schools, operating across Australia, are a beacon of hope for women who have experienced the horrors of modern-day slavery. By employing trauma-informed care principles, our school creates a safe and supportive environment for learning and healing. The curriculum, enriched by the lived experiences and voices of survivors, has evolved over the past decade to better meet the unique needs of our vulnerable cohort. In addition to recovery and skills training, we provide work experience placements and employment pathways with screened and trauma trained employers.

The impact of The Freedom Hub Survivor School is profound. Over 80% of the survivors who have completed the program now lead successful, independent lives. They have secured meaningful employment and live independently, breaking the cycle of victimisation and poverty. This success is a testament to the power of education tailored to the needs of the most vulnerable. It's not just about teaching skills; it's about restoring dignity, building confidence, and empowering women to take control of their destinies.

At The Freedom Hub our approach over the past 10 years has demonstrated that with the right education and support, vulnerable women can overcome their past and look forward to a future filled with hope and independence.

If you would like to know more about our work our website is: 


[2.] World Bank Reports – various studies on the impact of female education.

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