TOOWOOMBA, Australia, 7 March 2016 (UNHCR) – For Prudence Melom, International Women’s Day is a personal as well as global celebration. Resettled by UNHCR as a refugee from Chad in Australia at the age of 11, Prudence has thrived in her family’s new home of Toowoomba.
Reflecting on life in Australia, Prudence is most grateful for the opportunities she now has as a young woman. “Coming from a country where as a girl I was not allowed to speak my mind, Australia has given me my freedom of speech regardless of my gender, ethnicity or religion,” says Prudence. Now studying law, Prudence wants to “use my skills to give back to this country that accepted me, have a dream and work to make it a reality.”
At just 20 years old, Prudence has certainly gone a long way towards that already. In 2014, she founded the E-Raced project after winning the ABC Heywire competition, a summit to develop youth projects for regional Australia. Late last year, she was recognised as one of national youth broadcaster Triple J’s ’25 Under 25 and Nailing It,’ a hit list of young Australians doing amazing things. Asked about being a female role model, Prudence is quick to point out her own – her mother, Angele.
When Prudence’s father was shot during the Chadian civil war, Angele made the difficult decision to flee with two children under the age of 5 to neighbouring Benin. “My mum taught me about strength and courage at a young age,” says Prudence. “She showed me that a woman is strong, determined, patient, loving and visionary.”
“During the most difficult time of our lives my mum remained the driving force of our family. She would walk miles each day just so that we would at least get one meal by the end of it. No matter how terrible things were, she reassured us that everything would be alright. She was, is, and will forever remain my hero. I will always be grateful for all she did and endured for our sake.”
These days, Prudence is inspiring others with her energy and intelligence. Aimed at reducing racism through story-telling, the E-Raced program educates young people on refugee and migrant issues by sharing real narratives and experiences. Prudence and her team travel to schools in rural Queensland with story tellers from different countries sharing the stories of their lives and giving students the chance to ask questions about other cultures. Prudence explains, “By doing this we are erasing stigmas, stereotypes and prejudice that are held against different groups.”