Awesome Women – Interview with Carmen Hawker, General Manager of The Global Women’s Project

In light of the tragedy unfolding in Nepal at the moment, we’ve got a special post in the Awesome Women Series for you. Carmen Hawker, General Manager of The Global Women’s Project, had actually been kind enough to agree to this interview a few weeks ago, but we wanted to get it up as soon as possible to share her incredible story with you, along with the amazing work she is currently undertaking as part of The Global Women’s Project emergency response in Nepal. She is one amazing woman, and sure to inspire.
.
What’s your story? Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My story. Wow. Well, I’m hoping it’s only a quarter of my story so far at the ripe old age of 26, but that was very nearly not the case last year! I had been passionately working away for a few years in the women’s health sector in family violence service coordination and prevention of violence against women with a BA and a Masters of International Relations (Gender) under my belt – and I could feel myself starting to burn out. I’d been privileged enough to travel a lot as a kid so didn’t feel the same urge to travel in my late teens or early 20s as many of my friends but at 25 I decided to take off and travel around Southeast Asia for three months.
My plan was to do a bit of solo travel to get out of my comfort zone and also to spend time travelling with my lifelong friend Alice and my beautiful partner Sam. Two and a half months into my trip I was starting to flag after having an incredible, but rather hectic, time travelling through Burma, Laos, Thailand and working with The Global Women’s Project’s grassroots partner Stung Treng Women’s Development Centre in Cambodia. I arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal, at midnight on March 13 for the final leg of my trip. On the agenda was some work with our amazing partner, the Women’s Foundation Nepal, and a trek in Pokhara. Well, let’s just say the universe had other plans. I had a splitting headache when I arrived and after attempting to brush it off for 36 hours, it wouldn’t budge and was getting a whole lot worse. So my gorgeous, and now life-saving, friend Alice packed up my things and threw me in the back of a taxi and asked the driver to take us to a hospital.
As it turned out I didn’t have an ordinary headache. I had two gigantic blood clots almost completely blocking the two central veins in my brain. The next three and a half weeks were a blur. I spent almost a month in ICU there in a pitch black isolation room where it looked, for all intents and purposes, that I was going to die from a stroke or be severely impaired. Luckily, my body responded like a boss. I survived, luckily. I was then medically evacuated back to Australia to begin a very, very long recovery process! So I guess that’s not a little about myself, but that’s my ‘story,’ thus far in a nutshell.
What made you want to start up The Global Women’s Project?
Well it was actually started by two incredible women, Kate Williams and Briony Mackenzie, and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time! That time and place was queuing for chais at Seven Sisters Festival. I was practically recruited on the spot and joined the team alongside another absolute superstar called Lauren (there’s obviously something about Laurens – they tend to be amazing!). It was a magical moment and one I’ll never forget. I met my soul sisters that day and the rest is history, as they say.
11001775_717066128406814_3413618363871570679_n
 .
What has been your biggest success and biggest challenge?
One of my biggest challenges has been to find sustainability and balance in my approach to work. I like to work hard, I like to feel like I’m achieving something and I like to be all things to all people. This just isn’t possible and I’ve had to learn that the hard way. I burnt out, went travelling to regenerate and nearly found myself not here to tell the tale.
Ironically, nearly dying was the best thing that ever happened to me. My experience in Nepal last year forced me to re-evaluate my entire life. I know all too well that everything can be taken away from you in an instant. So ‘If not now, when?’ became my (wo)mantra and I’ve had to make some very difficult decisions and major changes. One of those was giving up my paid work, which I enjoyed and at an organisation that I loved, to focus solely on The Global Women’s Project and my recovery. This decision, although extremely difficult, was incredibly liberating and has unleashed an energy and decisiveness that I’ve not had before. I feel as if I’ve finally been able to step into my own power.
So here I am, the General Manager Australia of The Global Women’s Project, working almost seven days a week for free! That’s a pretty damn big success out of a major challenge!
Any advice for women wanting to start up their own charity?
Do it. Don’t be afraid. Be part of something bigger than yourself.
 .
IMG_5289

Carmen’s inspirational workspace with her Words With Heart notebook.

 .
Who inspires you?
A line of damn strong women in my family who are resilient and compassionate beyond belief. And, of course, the people I have the honour of working alongside, the women we work with in Nepal and Cambodia and all of the badass trailblazers who’ve come before me.
Do have some ‘words with heart’ to leave us with?
There is nothing like the solidarity of the sisterhood. There just isn’t.
Where can we go to find out more about The Global Women’s Project?
Well, as we know, there was a devastating Earthquake in Nepal on Saturday that has left thousands dead, many more thousands injured and millions displaced in need of urgent assistance. Our fearless Director Briony lives and works alongside the Women’s Foundation Nepal and was in Kathmandu as disaster struck. We were actually talking at the time. Briony just sprung into action and with the team here in Australia, we started a Nepal Emergency Appeal to provide women and their families with urgent assistance & supplies in the critical days following the quake. We have been overwhelmed by the response to our Appeal and by the incredible generosity of people wanting to donate and support our efforts on the ground.
We have developed a targeted response to the specific needs of women, who are disproportionately affected by natural disasters, and are providing a gendered lens to relief and recovery efforts across Nepal. With WFN, we are doing everything we can to support women and their families through this horrendous time by using our donations and injecting them into the local economy to buy supplies and facilitate community and women-led solutions to relief and recovery.
 .
The GWP relief response to the Nepal earthquake.

The GWP relief response to the Nepal earthquake.

 .
A lot is often written and said about women’s vulnerability during natural disasters but that overlooks the crucial role women play in disaster management and risk reduction and how incredibly resilient they are. Women are amazing and we have never been so convinced of this having overseen what has happened across Nepal in this past week.
.
While the funds raised through our Appeal will go towards meeting the immediate needs of women and their families in the wake of this disaster, let us assure you – we are there for the long haul. We are a sustainable development organisation that focuses on long-term grassroots partnerships and we ain’t going anywhere! For more information about the Appeal, please visit our website: http://theglobalwomensproject.com.au/donate/

About the Author:

Lauren Shuttleworth

Founder and Director of Words With Heart. Passionate about conservation, women’s and girls’ education, and really good gelato.

Leave A Comment