A Momentary Diversion – International Women’s Day

by The Editor

UN IWD Logo

Here at The Canberran we’re not much for politics. On the odd occasion we choose to engage in such weighty subjects it tends to be in more philosophical tones than angry ones, with positions developed through the assistance of premium libations.

However, today marks the commencement of activities proper for International Women’s Day which falls on Friday 8 March 2013. Rather than skip over Friday’s significance with further observations of first world problems in which we typically indulge, we thought it best to pause for a moment discuss what’s happening this week – and, more importantly, why.

Firstly – the ‘why’.

Come Friday, during a sold-out lunch at the National Convention Centre, UN Women Australia will acknowledge the day by celebrating 100 women who have made substantial contributions to the Canberra and broader community. Whether a part of our city’s past, or helping to shape the future, it is certainly important to realise the significant (an often unrecognised) contributions of these ladies.

Image: essential-architecture.com

Image: essential-architecture.com

One only has to look at Marion Mahony Griffin who stood in her husband’s shadow for her entire life and beyond. Even today her name can barely be recognised even when placed beside her husband, Walter’s.

But moreover, it is important to recognise the battles fought on a daily basis in developing and semi-industrialised countries. Certainly, inequality exists within modern economies, but in the last year – among discussions across the dispatch box on misogyny and gender stereotypes – some extraordinary global examples of poor treatment based purely on gender were evident.

Few need to be reminded of the horrors in the case of 16 December 2012 where an unnamed girl in Munirka, New Delhi was brutally attacked, raped and gored for no reason more than being a girl who got on a bus. It was an act so extraordinary as to gain worldwide attention out of a country where rape is greatly under-reported  for a number of cultural and societal reasons.  In a patriarchal society where the pace of change will increase due to a rapid rise in wealth, much work is to be done to both protect and empower India’s female population. Additionally, the loss of this young girl’s life should act as a call to arms for self-examination and action across all societies.

Similarly, the violent attack on the vehicle of 15-year-old Malala Yousufzai in October reminded us all of the difficulties faced by women under the Taliban. This is far scarier a prospect with the imminent withdrawal over the coming year of ISAF troops from Afghanistan, and will be a strong focus for NGOs working within the fractured country.

Image: Reuters

Image: Reuters

Malala is a serial irritant to the Taliban in the most wonderful way. She has long campaigned for the education of girls in her home country of Pakistan, resulting in her being the youngest ever nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize – eventually (and confusingly) awarded to the whole of Europe. Despite the intent of the attck, her shooting only served to raise her profile and the plight of her sisters in the Subcontinent. Again, the need for assistance, support and broad education of women’s issues is an ongoing challenge.

These are but two examples of a universal problem. Today, at the National Press Club, a panel featuring The Hon Julie Bishop MP, the Hon Tanya Plibersek MP and Ms Julie McKay (Executive Director at UN Women Australia) will take a more domestic focus by discussing gender issues in Australia. The forum will be guided by ABC presenter, journalist and author, Virginia Haussegger. If you can find yourself a spot at a table this promises to be a lively debate.

Image: The Australian

Image: The Australian

Yesterday, Australia’s first female Prime Minister joined Australia’s first female Governor-General at the funeral of the Honourable Joan Child AO, Australia’s first speaker of the House of Representatives. Ms Child was elected to Parliament in 1974, and at the time was the only woman to sit in the House.

So, in the week of Ms Child’s funeral – marked by the attendance of those for whom Joan forged a path – let’s take a moment to realise how far we have come, how far we have to go, and the battles and hardships of anonymous women who’s communities have not travelled so far down the path towards equality.

If you’ve got an event or gathering for International Women’s Day, feel free to pop it in the comments below.

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