Cliff climbing 

STRETCHING YOURSELF?: Rabia Siddique believes that creating change in our own lives "empowers us to explore ways of helping to bring about beneficial change in the lives of others". PICTURE: Jeremy Bishop/Unsplash

Recently, I met Rabia Siddique, a remarkable and inspiring woman. Rabia is a human rights and criminal lawyer, a former terrorism and war crimes prosecutor and retired British Army officer. Her life story is one of resilience and the courage to stand up for her own justice after spending years advocating on behalf of other people.

In our conversation, Rabia spoke of her life journey and the challenging process of finding her voice, which she believes, comes from arriving at a place of personal insight and self-awareness. She says we must be prepared to confront the realities in our lives and the world around us because unless we do so we can’t address and overcome aspects of our lives that don’t serve us well. We must also be prepared to challenge and change our narrative about ourselves, others and our place in the community and protect and preserve hope at all costs, especially when it is difficult to do so. That’s the hope, the belief, the faith that we all have the capacity to create change.

Rabia says that being an agent of change involves identifying our true essence. Our values. And living a life in harmony with them. It relates to the environment we create, the relationships we cultivate and the commitment to living a life beyond ourselves. The power we possess to create change in our life, in the lives of others and the community around us. Being prepared to do something uncomfortable and asking what does that mean for you?

What it means is being prepared to take a stand, to speak up, to step up when others remain silent, when others remain seated. That can also mean taking a risk on yourself, taking a risk on others, empowering people. Sometimes it means having to change one’s environment, sometimes it means having to sever relationships that are not serving us well and sometimes it means committing to living a life beyond the end of our nose.

Rabia believes that creating change in our own lives empowers us to explore ways of helping to bring about beneficial change in the lives of others. To illustrate this belief, she described the way Opportunity International Australia empowers women in developing countries to become agents of change – in their own lives, in the lives of their families and in their local communities.

Opportunity provides small loans to women in India, Indonesia and the Philippines so they can build businesses, earn regular incomes and free their families from poverty. Before receiving a small loan, many of these women and their families survived on less than US$1.90 a day. Survival was their only choice. Receiving loans, building businesses and providing for their families’ needs gives these women choices about how they live their lives. It empowers them to become agents of change. And by choosing to be agents of change, Australian women can come together to generate ripples and waves of change in the lives of women living in poverty.   

Rabia Siddique will be sharing the four steps to becoming an agent of change at the Opportunity Women4Women Conference in Perth on 13th May.

Marie Kelly-Davies is media and communications manager for Opportunity International Australia.