Reflections on International Women’s Day 2015 by Julie McKay
I was heartened to see so much discussion about gender equality surrounding International Women’s Day (March 8th) this year. As the celebrations come to a close, it is critical that we each commit to doing something differently now, if progress is to be made.
The theme for International Women’s Day was ‘Let’s not wait another 20 years for gender equality’ referencing the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. The conference produced what is still today the most progressive blueprint for gender equality, agreed by 189 countries. Women left Beijing with high hopes, with a well-defined path towards equality, and firm commitments at the highest level. Their hope was a future of equality and opportunity for all. Today, not one country has achieved equality. Twenty years since Beijing, the gender pay gap is widening, women’s workforce participation is stagnating, women continue to be under represented in leadership roles and women’s risk of experiencing violence continues, sadly, to soar.
I want a better future for the women and girls of the world, and I don’t want to wait another twenty years to get there.
Throughout our International Women’s Day campaign we had the extraordinary opportunity to reach governments, families, workplaces and communities and challenge Australians to take steps towards achieving gender equality. And we will continue to issue this challenge to all who want to be a part of the solution.
Around the world, UN Women works with the whole community, from the grassroots through to the highest levels of government, to promote safety for women, to support girls’ equal access to education and women’s access to decent jobs, so they may earn an income and support themselves and their families. As I write this, our neighbours in Vanuatu are confronted by the devastation of Cyclone Pam. We know that natural disasters disproportionately impact women. Women and girls are more vulnerable to disease and often face higher mortality rates. Gender based and family violence rise exponentially, due to crowded living conditions, psychological trauma, limited policing and stress. UN Women is working to protect women and girls in Vanuatu and invest in reconstruction that will benefit women and their families.
It is essential that the voices of women and girls are heard everywhere so that together we can build a brighter future.
We need to step up our efforts if we are to see a world of equality and opportunity for all.
I hope that you will consider taking one of the following actions to accelerate progress towards gender equality:
1. Be active in promoting the #HeforShe campaign via social media, encouraging men alongside women to play an active role in advancing gender equality.
2. Work to address the root cause of gender inequality. Call out sexism and gender stereotyping in schools, in the workplace and in the community and remind your friends and co-workers that sexism undermines equality and reinforces traditional roles that disadvantage women.
3. Donate to the Australian National Committee for UN Women. 100% of all donations are directed to UN Women projects in the greater Pacific region.
Julie McKay is the Executive Director, Australian National Committee for UN Women.