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Building a generation of Jasiri leaders

Building a generation of Jasiri leaders

Caitlin Figueiredo is no ordinary woman.

She’s a co-founder and CEO of Jasiri Australia, was named in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2018 list, made Westpac’s “100 Women of Influence” Young Leader category in 2016, and was one of two Australians to receive the Queen’s Young Leader Award. The list could go on.

Despite it being her name on all these awards and recognitions, Caitlin said she wouldn’t have been able to achieve any of it if it weren’t for her family, particularly her grandparents, who left Kenya for Australia due to civil unrest.

“My Avozinha and Avo told their children that they always need be supportive of their family and supportive of their community, and to always have a global mindset,” Caitlin said.

“That’s the same thing they taught me when I was a little kid, so instead of bedtime stories, my Avo and Avozinha would sit me down at the kitchen table and tell me what life was like for them growing up.

“During the chaos of 9/11, I was six years old at the time and we were at the kitchen table and I was really confused about what was happening.

I didn’t understand why certain groups of people were being targeted by the media, because they look my grandparents and they look like my dad, but I knew my family were good people.

“I just really wanted to help from a young age and my family really guided me on that.”

As much as these moments have influenced her work today, Caitlin would still tell her younger self not to feel like the weight of the world was on her shoulders, who at the time, struggled with the concept of needing to help but not quite knowing where to start.

Caitlin is also a survivor of gender-based violence, and 2017 marked ten years since she stopped her abuser with self-defence, a sport she had been training in since the age of eight.

This moment, along with a number of other signs, led to the formation of Jasiri Australia, the Swahili word meaning fearless, something Caitlin’s Avozinha often reminded her that she was.

“We decided we would focus on empowerment-based self-defence and thus far, we’ve trained over 1100 women, we’ve worked with survivors across the country and we’ve expanded so rapidly,” Caitlin explained.

I realised we have to do something and we have to focus on a preventative measure that builds womens’ confidence and builds safe spaces.

“We also have a Girls Takeover Parliament program, which I work with Commonwealth Youth Council’s Elizabeth Kite on, which is all about bringing young women’s voices into politics by bringing motions and policies that are created by women, for women.”

With all this in progress, Jasiri Australia, the Girls Takeover Parliament program and 31 young leaders will be taking over the Australian Federal Parliament on November 28, 2018.

“My goal is to get Girls Takeover Parliament into every Commonwealth country by 2025,” Caitlin said.

“Then, my long-term goal with Jasiri Australia, our self-defence programs and Girls Takeover Parliament is to decrease the level of violence in Australia, and also to increase the number of diverse female politicians in Australia and around the world.”

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