Marguerite Ryan AM
Marguerite Ryan AM
Marguerite was made a Member of the General Division of the Order of Australia in the 2013 Queen’s Birthday Awards in recognition of her work in Africa. Marguerite was also a finalist in the 2007 Victorian Division of the Australian of the Year.
For many years I worked as CEO of the Christian Brothers Foundation and a consultant in marketing and fundraising for Eastern Palliative Care and the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce. Prior to 2004, Kibera was a place I visited many times, and I continued to give personal money to help the children following my retirement. But I knew I wanted to do more, and when Brother Frank Chappell suggested that perhaps we could, I enlisted the help of many friends who responded with great generosity, and we held our first fundraising function. We continued, and the charity – Women for Women in Africa – was born.
As Chair I’m heavily involved with fund raising aspects, as well as being responsible for the direction and growth of the organisation. I’m jointly responsible with how our funds are allocated and spent, as well as being the primary link between Australia and Africa for the charity.
I believe that every child has the right to an education. In Australia we accept this without question, but in Kibera, going to school is just a dream for most.
I believe that every woman has the right to live in safety, have skills training and the ability to provide for her family, as well as the self-esteem that this brings. I also firmly believe that every woman has the right not to be subjected to abuse, simply because they are ‘just women.’ Girls need to understand that they have the right to say no to unprotected sex and to female mutilation.
I also believe that every family has the right to a meal every day. Even if that meal is only maize flour, water and beans.
My dream sounds simple – and that’s for Kibera to be a safe place. A place with homes that have running water, electricity and toilets: locks on the door and a bed for each person. A place where women can walk in safety without the fear of abuse. A place with green areas where children can play and with decent schools for education. A place with drainage so that raw sewage doesn’t run through the streets when it rains.
But I’m a realist, and I know that my dream is just that – and it can never be unless education produces people in Kibera who can and will work for change.