Friday the 8th March is International Women’s Day (IWD,) a day on which we celebrate and reflect how far we have come and also how far we still need to go to achieve gender equality. (1) Unfortunately gender inequality is still a significant problem word wide, including here in Australia.
Gender based violence is defined as violence against an individual based on his or her gender or gender identity. In Australia one in three women have been the victim of gender based violence and women are more than three times more likely than men to have experienced violence from an intimate partner. (2) Gender inequality is also an ongoing concern in the Australian workforce. In Australia in 2018 women earned on average 15.3% less than men – when employed in comparable full-time roles. Women are also under represented in senior management roles and often overlooked when appointing people in leadership roles. Women also spend almost twice as many hours as men performing unpaid care work each week and have significantly less superannuation available on retirement. (3)
Why is gender equality important? Apart from the fact that it is a basic human right, by empowering women or allowing women to empower themselves, it not only changes her life, but also the lives of her family and community. Women tend to reinvest more of their income back into their families and are often responsible for funding their children’s education, preparing healthy food and ensuring that their children receive appropriate access to medical care. (4)
Gender equality is very important from a child health perspective. By empowering women health outcomes for children improve on all levels. The single biggest factor that reduces death among children younger than five is better education and schooling for girls. Childhood mortality decreases in proportion to the years of schooling that a mother has attained and can reduce the risk of infant mortality by approximately 50%, as educated women can make better choices about nutrition, hygiene, immunisation and contraception. (5,6)
How can we empower our daughters?
- Through education and schooling: In my view this is probably the most important tool in empowering our children, both boys and girls. Children should be given the opportunity and encouraged to attend school, post schooling education and children should feel safe and secure in learning environments. Alternative education platforms should be available for children who are not able to finish mainstream school.
- By reducing gender based and family violence and providing support to survivors. Raising awareness of the significant ongoing problem this is in our society will reduce stigma and empower women to speak out and stand up against family violence.
- By preventing teenage pregnancies.
- By providing opportunities and supporting women who start their own businesses.
- Through legislation to reduce discrimination.
There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.
Kofi Annan, 7th UN Secretary General