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Mar 21, 2022 Diet & Nutrition Movement & Exercise Recipes Wellness Tips Susie Elelman 4,799 views

This year’s International Women’s Day (8th March) is as important and as relevant now as it was when it was first commemorated in New York back in 1909.

There are so many facets to International Women’s Day (IWD); in the past I have paid homage to some of the women I admire most and discussed the importance of celebrating the achievements of women and having female role models.

This year I’d like to focus on a couple of fundamental reasons as to why IWD is still vital in 2022, even in Australia.

While we are extremely lucky here to have achieved equal rights for women in many areas, there is still a great deal we need to achieve.

If you compare us to other countries globally, we are streets ahead of many nations, whose human rights, especially women’s rights are well below ours and in some cases totally unacceptable.

There are a lot of freedoms we take for granted. For instance, it was only back in 2018 that women in Saudi Arabia were finally allowed to drive a motor vehicle.

This was achieved by Saudi women, who are denied many rights that their government allows of their men. The ground swell started in earnest in 1990, when dozens of women defied the ruling and drove in the Saudi capital Riyadh. They were arrested and their passports confiscated, some were sentenced to ten lashes, others were incarcerated but they didn’t give up.

The Women2Drive Movement was launched and over the years more women joined the campaign and drove illegally, many others petitioned King Abdullah, who ruled Saudi Arabia at the time. However, it took almost two decades more before the current King and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia King Salman officially lifted the ban.

Around 70,000 Saudi women were issued with driver licences in the first year alone but sadly it’s been reported that some of the women’s rights activists still remain under arrest and in detention to this day.

I can understand why some men and women are reluctant these days to call themselves a feminist because of the negative connotations that title has garnered, and it remains a controversial word in some quarters.

Here is the dictionary definition of ‘feminist’ and based on that description I’m a proud feminist and I can’t think of one of my friends – female or male, who wouldn’t describe themselves as a feminist too.

feminist

[ˈfɛmənɪst]

NOUN

  1. an advocate of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes; a person who supports feminism.

“there are a million types of different women who consider themselves feminists but don’t have the same agenda”

ADJECTIVE

  1. relating to or supporting feminism; advocating women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.
  • Voting in elections

I believe the greatest right ever bestowed to any human being in a democratic country is the right to a silent vote.

Unfortunately, there are many countries the world over, whose citizens don’t have that privilege.

Neither men nor women can vote in the United Arab Emirates with few exceptions for those granted power to vote for one council in 2011.

Women are strictly forbidden to vote or hold office in Saudi Arabia.

While voting is legal for women in countries like Papua New Guinea, Uganda, Kenya, Egypt, Nigeria and Qatar, women are often too scared to do so as they are face violence at the polls and harassment. Some think their vote won’t count, others are told to stay home and do chores instead. Many women are simply forbidden to take long walks, which is required to get to the polls.

In Pakistan, a husband can prevent his wife from voting. In Oman women only gained the right to vote in 2003, however, when they do, they are expected to vote as their husbands do or fear divorce, which is deemed akin to a death sentence socially and economically for many women. In Zanzibar women can vote but will also be divorced if they vote when their husband tells them not to.

Back home, the National Museum of Australia archives reveal that when Australia federated in 1901, only women who had the right to vote in their home state could vote in federal elections. That meant only women in South Australia and Western Australia had been granted the right to vote.

After pressure from suffragists and some politicians, the Commonwealth Franchise Act was enacted on 12 June 1902. The Act gave women in Australia over the age of 21 the right to vote federally.

First Nations’ women and men weren’t granted the right to vote in Australia’s federal elections until 1962.

Before Federation in 1901 Australia was made up of six separate colonies, each with its own system of government. Some women campaigned for colonial governments to give them the right to vote. To build support for women’s voting rights suffragists held rallies and meetings, they wrote letters, wrote articles for newspapers, and gave public speeches and met with politicians.

However, there was still strong opposition to female suffrage. Some men argued that women were better suited to home duties and shouldn’t take part in politics.

When I was young, I never thought I’d see the day when Australia would have a female Prime Minister or a female Governor General, let alone both being in power at the same time – former PM Julia Gillard (2010-2013) and former Governor General Dame Quentin Bryce (2008-2014).

Fast forward to 2022 and in our current 46th Federal Parliament there are now 47 female members in the House of Representatives. This is a little over 31% of the 151 members elected to the House.

The Upper House now comprises of 38 women and 38 men, which is the first time in the Senate’s history that it has equal gender representation.

I’m excited about Australia’s political future and ‘take my hat off’ to all the women who have, and are currently dedicating their lives and careers to politics. Regardless of what political party you cast your vote towards or the gender of the person you decide to vote for; I hope you’ll take advantage of your democratic right and make an informed decision when we go to polls to vote in a few months’ time.

  • Equal Pay

Women’s rights activists have fought tirelessly for so many civil rights for women, from the right to vote to paid-maternity leave, and much in-between but we still haven’t been able to achieve pay parity.

According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, in Australia over the past twenty years the gender pay gap has fluctuated, between fourteen and nineteen percent.

On average Aussie women take home $241 less per week than their male counterparts in a like-for-like job. This gap is one of the biggest contributors to retired women being twice as likely as retired men to live in poverty.

At the current rate of progress, it will take another 108 years to reach gender parity, according to the World Economic Forum’s most recent Global Gender Gap report.

  • Pink Tax

Not only don’t most women get paid equally to men but we also pay more for many products and services. This is often referred to as a ‘Pink Tax’ because women pay considerably more for personal care items like shampoo, deodorant and razors. Women also pay more for clothes and haircuts and the list goes on.

There was much ado in 2019 about the GST being lifted on sanitary pads and tampons but there has never been the same tax on Viagra and condoms.

There are so many other serious issues globally that need addressing for women and not only on International Women’s Day. These include domestic violence, the disproportionally high rate of illiteracy in women, genital mutilation and young girls forced to marry against their will. Plus, there are fewer women in leadership positions and females are in the minority as executives in big business. More reasons to keep IWD front and centre.

There are things we can all do as individuals to help create a gender equal world and I agree with Community & Social Development professional and passionate writer Emma Lennon’s simple idea. She says; if you’re in a position to, hire women and support female-led businesses.

The 2022 IWD theme is #BreakTheBias and they ask us all to imagine a gender equal world that is free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive, where difference is valued and celebrated.

IWD emphasises that together we can forge women’s equality.

Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.

Cheers Susie

 

 

About The Author - Susie Elelman

Susie Elelman is an Australian television presenter, radio broadcaster, and author, most famous for her appearances on daytime television in Australia. She has been an ambassador of the Australian Menopause Centre since 2016 and it is a pleasure to have such an influential figure support our work.

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