The overarching message this year is for women to find hope, to lead, to educate, and to remember that revolutions start when just one person says, “I don’t like this”.
It’s a day of celebration for how far we’ve come, and it’s a day to remember that so many of our sisters throughout the world aren’t doing as well as we are here. Particular mention was made of the women living through war, for example those in Ukraine, and the ongoing struggle in Iran by women, who want to be safe in their own country.
Glenda Kickett delivered a strong and definitive Welcome to Country at the breakfast held by the Town of Victoria Park to celebrate the day. She told us her stories of the land we are on, the land her family were driven from, the site of massacres. This land contains the fireplaces of her grandmothers, their spirits walking slowly on this land still. She acknowledged that the path she walks now was walked by her mother, her grandmother, and her aunties long before her. She honoured the women in our community who have shown us strength, resilience, love, and guidance. She’s happy so many women can come together and acknowledge the lives of women. Her advice to us now: “Pay attention, walk tall, go slowly, listen to what the spirits are telling you, and learn as you walk this beautiful land.”
This was followed by stories by other women, all portraying the difficulties facing women from “Boys will be boys, so best you sit this one out”, to “If you work hard, you may pass the ‘Good Bloke Test’ “. It was acknowledged by all, that for women’s equality to pass from a pipe dream to reality, women need men to sit down at the table and work with them for equity, which in turn will benefit not only women, but all of society.
Statistics were brought out to remind us how far we have yet to go in our quest for equality. Firstly around digital technology, which is the UN’s official theme for this year’s IWD:
There is a digital gender gap of 250 million fewer woman than men online.
There are 327 million less women than men who have a smartphone. (Just take a moment to imagine your life without one, and constant access to the internet. Then imagine that the man standing next to you has a smartphone with all of the access to everything that that entails.)
Statistics also show that 24% of women have reduced their internet usage because of abusive online contact. We know those women; we are those women.
More broadly, only 6.3% of world leaders are women. Just 24 companies listed in the Fortune 500 list have a female CEO. Women earn, on average, 83 cents for every dollar a man earns.
There are some advances for women here in WA, with the government’s recent legislation aimed at improving the lot of women including: quotas, revenge porn legislation, safe access zones around clinics providing abortions, drink spiking kits (you can drop into any police station and pick one up), and free period products in high schools and TAFEs.
At the same time, Sam Mostyn, chair of the Women's Gender Equality Task Force, told the National Press Club that gender inequality was "now a brake on our economy and our progress as a country".
International Women’s Day is a day to take stock of where we are on our journey to equality. It’s a day to educate ourselves and the people around us about the injustices faced by all women, particularly those in marginalised groups. In Nelson Mandela’s words: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
It is the role of everyone, every day, to continue to advocate for equal pay, to end violence against women and girls, and to see the end of gender discrimination. We can do that by educating others. We can speak up, take action and advocate when we see inequality. Don't underestimate the positive influence you can have on the people around you. It's how revolutions begin.