International Women’s Day 2018 – #PressforProgress
Women have, of late, been in the news for all the wrong reasons. The power imbalance in so many work places, where sexual harassment and abuse are part of the culture and sexual favours the requirement for keeping your job, were highlighted in the #MeToo campaign, an unprecedented global movement for women’s rights and justice. Closer to home the Australian Parliament was recently described as a “hyper–masculine” environment with the Prime Minister noting the imbalance in a place where “most of the bosses are men”. This was borne out in recent days when Julie Bishop, deputy leader, was overlooked for the role of Acting-Prime Minister and the very competent, deputy-leader of the Nationals, Bridget McKenzie, was not even considered as a candidate for the leadership because she is a Senator.
It is no surprise, then that the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #PressforProgress. The absolute need for progress is a focus in the 2017 World Economic Forum Report on the Global Gender Gap which estimates that gender parity is 200 years away! Not to be daunted the IWD campaign urges us to develop a gender parity mindset which challenges stereotypes and biases, forging a positive visibility for women. Next week the Commission on the Status of Women will have thousands of very visible women descend on the UN to discuss Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls. Poverty and lack of opportunity is what drives young women, particularly rural women, across Asia to leave their homes, families and countries to find work as domestics in Hong Kong, Singapore and the Middle East. Australia is not immune from this desperate search for work. A recent 4 Corners program revealed the torture, psychological abuse and exploitation of female domestic workers in various embassies in Canberra. Domestic workers, in many parts of the world, are totally without protection as they take up positions where there are no laws regarding working conditions, rates of pay or hours of work. While such legislation does exist in Australia it is not only the embassies which exploit their workers, there is much evidence of mistreatment and under payment in cleaning companies, restaurants and convenience stores.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to come to International Women’s Day without a reference to domestic violence. UN Woman, referring to recent research, noted that of all the women victims of homicide in 2012 almost half were killed by intimate or family members and women who have experienced violence are more likely to suffer depression, have abortions, acquire HIV and be homeless. In Australia a woman dies every week at the hands of a partner or former partner. If we are to make progress attention must be paid to the education of men and boys and to the treatment and rehabilitation of male sex and violence offenders, particularly first time offenders. #PressforProgress is an invitation to place gender imbalance under the spotlight and alert ourselves and others to the many ways women are exploited, ignored, violated and regarded as a second class species.
This International Women’s Day is an invitation to put all our efforts into working for the recognition of women’s rights, talents and achievements – we owe it to our girls.
Words: Coordinator Loreto JPIC, Libby Rogerson ibvm