Gender parity for progress: A road map

By Poornima Koonath
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The Women’s Steering Committee of United India Associations, spear-headed by Sue Advani, works for gender inclusiveness for Indian women in Australia and fights against gender violence. On International Women’s Day, they called for gender justice

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away, says Maya Angelou, civil rights activist, author and poet.

International Women’s Day does not just celebrate the social, economic and political achievements of women all around the world but is a day that reiterates the importance of and a need to accelerate gender parity in all walks of life. A day that has been observed on 8 March for over a century has always campaigned for women’s equality. With changing times, society has changed, but we are still not there yet. Today, it has become a collective celebration and retrospection day, not limited to a few countries, select groups or organisations. We all look up to strong and independent women and talk about them and are even inspired by them. But the question really is, “How do we become one ourselves?”

I was absolutely gobsmacked when I read the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report. It says that gender parity is over 200 years away! It is hence very important to ‘Press for Progress’. There is a strong universal impetus to strive for gender parity and global movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp are hoping they can start minimising the gap. As a global society we must work together, man and woman, to ensure that no woman is left behind. For this it is important that we receive support from leaders and executives within our community and the world over.

Every year, the Women’s Steering Committee of United India Associations, spearheaded by Sue Advani, ensures that International Woman’s Day is observed in the spirit of awareness building. While it is well-attended by women from various ethnic backgrounds, it would be heartening to see more men get involved in such activities. We live in a patriarchal society and the initiatives taken by men to nourish and celebrate the women in their lives can have far reaching effects. Leading by example and acquiring a gender parity mindset, they can drive for positive action and change. The sooner we embrace inclusion and champion equality, the closer we will get to creating a community where all are respected and appreciated.

In her welcome speech at the celebration this year, Sue Advani said, “For real progress to be made much needs to be done in the key areas of women’s safety, women’s workforce participation and economic empowerment, and government led projects that specifically and directly benefit women and increased female political representation. We need to create an environment within which women can progress and obtain gender justice. For a country to progress, it is essential that we empower both men and women and help them reach their full potential.”

She said that she believed it was important to work actively to address the several issues women continue to face today and issues that hold us back. “Equipping women with opportunities which could break old barriers is the best way for us to realise our potential,” she said. Key speakers on the day included Jodi McKay, Member for Strathfield, Julia Finn, Member for Granville, Akshay Raj of Project White Rakhi, Councillor Susai Benjamin who represented Mayor for Blacktown, Aisha Amjad who represented Michelle Rowland, Federal MP for Greenway, Nim Gholkar, author and success coach Ashritha Balaji, and Viji Virasamy from Sydney Tamil Manram who shared their life experiences and inspired women to keep motivated. Dr Nagamma Prakash and Dr Anju Aggarwal provided important information on women’s health with special focus on osteoporosis and cervical cancer. UIA President John Kennedy also addressed the audience.

There is a strong need to motivate and unite family, friends, neighbours and work mates to act and be more gender inclusive. International Woman’s day themes in the past have focussed on reducing violence against women. In 1999 it was, “World Free of Violence against Women”, in 2003 “Gender Equality and the Millennium Development Goals”, in 2005 “Gender Equality Beyond 2005; Building a More Secure Future”, in 2008 “Investing in Women and Girls” and in 2009 it was “Women and Men United to End Violence against Women and Girls”. The major thrust towards gender parity began in 2010 with the theme “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for All”. In 2014 it was “Equality for Women is Progress for All”, in 2015 “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!”, in 2016, “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality—Pledge for Parity”, in 2017, “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Women in the Changing World of Work: Be Bold for Change” and in 2018 the call is to Press for Progress.

Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist and activist observed, “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights”. The momentum must be maintained as there is no room for complacency. Now more than ever there is a strong need to #PressforProgress.

Goals of UIA’s Women’s Steering Committee

︎ To provide a social networking platform for Australian women of Indian origin

︎ To provide information to women especially new migrants about the support services available by inviting speakers from different agencies and service organisations. UIA holds several information forums on women’s health matters, managing money and superannuation, managing marital issues such as managing relationships and life after divorce and domestic violence.

︎ To act as the facilitator and work with the Indian and Australian governments to assist women in distress.

 

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