The City of Kingston again held a morning tea to celebrate International Women’s Day, and in 2018, the catchcry was #pressforprogress with the speakers focusing on gender equality.
The event, held at Kingston City Hall featured the CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria as the keynote speaker but also two young women from local secondary colleges, a student leader from Westall and a Year Nine student from Parkdale Secondary College.
Deputy Mayor Councillor Georgina Oxley opened the official proceedings to introduce Fiona McCormack, CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria, Chair of Vic health, and Co-Chair of the State Government’s Family Violence Committee. Kingston’s Mayor Steve Staikos was also present plus Councillor Rosemary West and several Council staff members.
Councillor Oxley, who is 23 years old shared a little of her journey to show that pressing for progress is not always easy to achieve. Despite it being almost half a century since the first IWD in 1975, when there were amazing steps forward in Australia, many young women’s dreams for change are still crushed.
She recalled several milestones in her life vindicating that young girls must aspire to whatever they want to be, whether it is a scientist, a CEO, a hairdresser or Prime Minister…
- at 5 years she was told she couldn’t wear pants to school because she was a girl
- at 9 years she couldn’t play basketball because that was a boy’s game
- at 12 years insulted and jeered at for being ‘a feminist’ while riding her bicycle
- at 15 years she was paid less than her male counterparts as a basketball referee
- at 17 years she was told science, law, or politics no place for a woman and she should be a hairdresser
- at 22 years she stood for Kingston Council to challenge a society still dictating to women about what they should do…
Now she wears pants if she wants, plays basketball, rides her bicycle to the shops, sees feminism as a term of endearment, campaigns for equal pay and is studying Law. She is involved in politics to make a difference. At 23 years she is involved with the working group to reduce family violence in Kingston.
Equality In The Workplace Two Hundred Years Away?
Women around the globe may have to wait more than two centuries to achieve equality in the workplace, according to new research.
The World Economic Forum, best known for its annual gathering in the Swiss resort of Davos, said it would take 217 years for disparities in the pay and employment opportunities of men and women to end.
The Guardian March 8, 2018
Domestic Violence Australia’s Shame
Fiona McCormack from Domestic Violence Victoria’s address was equally sobering, as she pointed out how important gender equality and pay equity is to stop family violence.
She acknowledged the power of words and language and commended the campaigns #me too, #heforshe: standing together and how the Victorian Government’s Royal Commission into Family Violence was a world first proving the political will to converse and make a change. (click on the link to read the recommendations.)
This IWD, Fiona called for everyone to challenge sexism, but more importantly for men to step up and act now for a significant change. Many male peer relationships emphasise aggression and disrespect towards women.
Male culture can be physical, emotional and economically abusive by threatening, coercive, and dominating behaviour.
Family violence predominantly affects women, 34% are in the age group 35-40:
- in Australia, woman are murdered every week
- 1 in 3 women have suffered from intimate partner violence
- 1 in 5 have experienced sexual assault
- more than half had children in their care witnessing this abuse
We must challenge rigid gender roles and stereotypes, the constructs of masculinity and feminity that encourages domination and control of decision-making within relationships and limits women’s independence.
Research has shown that family violence cannot be explained away by blaming drugs and alcohol. International evidence gathered by the World Bank, World Health Organisation and several other UN organisations reveal it is how social systems are constructed.
The Personal Is Political
Men who have strong views on their role as men, as the head of the family, treat women and children as their possessions; women are carers and/or sexual beings.
There are a lot of problems caused by definitions of masculinity – look no further than the One Punch incidents, gang violence and aggressive behaviour in nightclubs where young men feel the need to prove how tough they are over and over again. The necessity some men have to not only prove they are heterosexual but take part in homophobic attacks.
- We have to challenge the norms of what is masculinity until we produce a healthier community for everyone.
- Society, the courts, and police must not be ambivalent about acceptable behaviour.
- We must address the imbalance of power between men and women regarding decision-making.
- Sexist jokes, disrespect, and unequal relationships must be confronted and exposed.
There needs to be a cultural shift especially regarding unequal power and entrenched attitudes.
We can’t point the finger when we continue to discriminate and treat Aboriginal people the way we do. Sovereignty was never ceded and their economic disempowerment and the higher incidence of being caught in a poverty trap contributes to family violence in their communities. Authorities continue the discrimination and abuse leading to high incarceration rates and deaths in custody.
We must actively promote leadership positions for all women and pay equity not just allow conditions to flourish and hope that like the discredited ‘trickle down economics’ theory it will somehow work out in the end.
The United Nations (UN) convention on the rights of the child (CROC-article, 1990) states:
“It is recognised internationally that a child who is capable of forming their own view has the right to express those views.”
Two Young Women Speak Up
(Apologies if I misspelt the names of the young speakers – they were not listed on the invitation and my hearing is not 100%!)
Danielle is a proud Wurundjeri woman and welcomed us to her country in her own language. She acknowledged coming from a long line of working women including her mother, aunts and granny. She has always expected to work and therefore pay parity very important.
She understands that women with dependent children carry a heavy burden when underpaid. Today, young people must work harder to own things like a house and car, but young women not paid equally have to work harder than male counterparts.
She is grateful for the women who have trailblazed but pleaded for the door to be held open for the next generation to walk through and continue to achieve.
The gender pay gap can begin in the home if boys and girls are expected to do different chores and boys putting out the rubbish bins considered to deserve more money than girls drying the dishes! All children’s self-esteem must be built and children encouraged to forget past gender divisions.
Danielle was assured that “a door is well and truly open for you.”
Mulyat is a school leader from Westall Secondary College, who began her talk by describing a recent visit to her birth country Bangladesh. She noticed a huge difference between how girls were treated in the city compared to the countryside.
The inequalities she saw in the rural areas and in poor areas of the city were manifestations of poverty and lack of access to education. And although disheartening it also indicated that if some girls in the city can achieve their dreams then change is possible.
However, gender equality and empowerment should not just be for society’s elites!
When she was little her parents bought her kitchen tools and a doll’s house but she always wanted to be an engineer. She saw a different use for the spatula and wanted to experiment with changing the slope of the roof of the doll’s house.
As she grew up, she wondered why young girls stopped playing sports like rugby when they reached a certain age, why teachers always chose boys to carry furniture, why women in positions of power like our first female Prime Minister were called wicked witches and other curse words. She wondered if Hillary had broken the glass ceiling if women could rise…
The print media and other forms of media headlines pick poor word choices with negative connotations when it comes to women but we must never let anyone make us feel defeated!
We must consider who we are as a collective and don’t be forced to be on the sidelines. Role models are important but the change begins with us. There can be progress to change the future and the echo must go around the world – no barricades and no fences.
After the inspiring speeches, morning tea was a time to catch up with friends, make new ones, share stories, opinions and plans. I chatted with a woman wearing a lovely knitted Pussy Hat and we reminisced about how quickly women all over the world came together to object to Donald Trump’s obnoxious behaviour and attitude to women.
One of Kingston Council’s managers shared his experience of a professional development workshop when he was stunned to hear the fear many women live with daily and how they cope.
The women were asked how safe they felt walking the streets; their responses detailed how they protect themselves.
He remembered being shocked that women accepted the possibility of an attack as a fact of life and:
- have their car our house keys in their hand or pocket with the largest key ready as a weapon
- if walking with earbuds/earphones, or a wearing a beanie, one ear is always exposed so they can listen for footsteps
Let’s hope that cultural shift that is so necessary is happening and speeds up. Late in the afternoon, I marched through the city on the annual IWD March and again caught up with friends.
Evelyn is 86 years old. We are both longtime members of the Union of Australian Women and have lost count of the number of marches we have joined, the letters we’ve written and the petitions signed demanding gender equality and in particular equal pay.