During the COVID-19 pandemic, several communication platforms have made working, studying, and relationships possible from home. Communication is an essential part of life. However, due to the inability to physically be present everywhere at all times, virtual media has made life easier and done prominent work in bridging the communication gap.
AMAFHH Federation is a multi-cultural, non-profit (NGO) serving the Shia Muslim community in Australia. This year, they have introduced the AMAFHH Federation Virtual Studio, which posts podcasts as well as recorded/live videos to their YouTube channel and Facebook page to keep the Shia Muslim community connected with one another.
Batul Gulani, Chairperson of AMAFHH Federation says the virtual platform is vital to keep the community connected and to give the women and youth of the community an opportunity to lead and to connect with society.
“As a community, our aim is to give voice and to recognise the women and youth of our community. The virtual platform is an ideal way to achieve this goal.” Gulani told upstart.
“We started this program to address the gap in the community for youth and to develop them and give them leadership skills.”
According to Gulani, the organisation also plans to teach skills through their virtual studio, participants, and have left room for a diverse curriculum post lockdown.
“Due to the current lockdown a few things haven’t been established (equipment delays) but after the lockdown, we will have a full working broadcast system in order to keep the community virtually connected,” she said.
In order for a better communication stream with the community and to be able to lend a helping hand where required, AMAFHH’s virtual media platform has been set up in Gulani’s house. Through this, she can moderate communication as well as provide guidance and resources to whomever necessary.
Not only does the virtual platform connect family and friends, but it also addresses social issues and caters to a larger issue of isolation. According to a youth mental health survey by Mission Australia in collaboration with Black Dog Institute Australia conducted 2012-16, when suicide, depression, mental illness, and isolation have discussed the mention of youth and young adults (18-25) is ubiquitous.
The Shia Muslim community usually holds weekly events at their community centre. However, due to the pandemic, such events had to be canceled, leaving students isolated from social gatherings. Several young students are battling homesickness and depression so have turned to the platform to establish a virtual home-like environment.
As an NGO based on women empowerment in the Muslim society and giving a voice to the youth, AMAFHH’s main aim is providing a sense of purpose and value to those isolated from social events. Women’s empowerment has also been a notable focus, and the program has given housewives a medium to connect and educate themselves while catering to their household needs.
According to Gulani, the Virtual Studio is an ideal medium to empower and give them the opportunity to grow and gain the confidence they require.
“When we started, we recognized that there was a vast range of people such as mums at home, people with disability and the elderly whom we have [connected with], who couldn’t contribute to face-to-face programs,” she said.
‘We plan to [continue] this to ensure they are connected and are part of the society (not isolated).
However, in a community build on tradition and patriarchal cultural paradigm, there were several challenges that Gulani and her team (of women) faced, including convincing the mature-aged male community leaders to heed this new medium.
AMAFHH Federation plans to continue its outreach and advancement programs, with the support of the multi-faith and multi-commission country leaders of the Victorian Multicultural Commission department and members of the Shia Muslim community in order to reach the elderly, women, and youth of the community.
Providing them with the opportunity to grow as well as integrate themselves in this time and make them feel part of a larger society and empower them mentally, physically as well as spiritually.
“The virtual studio is a platform to give our target audience a purpose, a voice; they need to be heard and involved. This is what we are trying to do through AMAFHH.”