Creating balance for the better -International Women’s Day 2019

International Women’s Day is here again and the theme for 2019 is Balance for better – looking at a more gender balanced world. This year we celebrate many amazing women that continue to strive for equality and women’s rights across the world, and Geraldine Chacón from Venezuela is one of those women who refuses to be silenced by authority.

From humble beginnings, Geraldine started up a network of Amnesty International activists at her university and began fighting for injustices around the world, including in her own country. She currently works for an organisation which empowers young people in some of the poorest areas of Caracas, her home city. Because of this human rights advocacy work, Geraldine, just 24, was imprisoned for four months and banned from leaving her country.

Geraldine Chacón always dreamed of defending others. At 14 years of age, she stood for her local youth government, leading the way for future advocacy. On International Women’s Day 2019, we celebrate brave activists such as Geraldine and implore the government to ensure safety for all those who stand up for the down-trodden.

Pictured: Geraldine Chacón, human rights ambassador

Another brave woman we are taking the time to recognise is Atena Daemi of Iran, who has been imprisoned for peacefully campaigning the use of the death penalty in her home country. The Iran government has sentenced her in an appalling 15 minute trial, to seven years in prison for her peaceful activism.

Atena is a prisoner of conscience who has been imprisoned for seven years, solely for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

Pictured: Atena Daemi of Iran

Women like Atena and Geraldine, deserve freedom, safety and protection in their home country, without persecution.

In the spirit of gender balance, Amnesty will be supporting extraordinary women who are leading the struggle for justice, often in the face of fierce opposition, discrimination and violence.

In 1984, the Australian Sex Discrimination Act was recognised, making sex discrimination and sexual harassment against the law. This very action changed the face of how women were perceived in the workforce, home life and as equals. Balance was coming, albeit slowly. Women and girls across the country still faced an enormity of missed opportunities professionally and personally, as the fight continued and the voices roared.

Since the first International Women’s Day in 1911, the world is a vastly different place for women. We saw big changes with the emergence of historic and current sexual assault and harassment cases that inspired the momentous #MeToo and #TimesUp hashtag campaigns on social media. With the deafening cries of women everywhere, we plunged deeper into equality, giving women acknowledgement that their experiences were validated instead of silenced. Shame quickly turned to power and inspired a wave of bravery worldwide.

Here are some changes we have seen over the years, working towards a more balanced world:

  • In 1921, the first woman, Edith Cowan, was elected to an Australian Parliament.
  • In 1978, The National Women’s Advisory Council was established.
  • In 1986, Janine Haines became the first woman leader of a political party in the Federal Parliament.
  • In July 1989, the First International Indigenous Women’s Conference was held in Adelaide.
  • In 2000, the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act was introduced.
  • In 2001, the first Aboriginal Woman was elected to an Australian Parliament – Carol Martin MLA.
  • In 2007, Australians elected their first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.
  • In 2015, domestic violence advocate Rosie Batty was named Australian of the Year and
  • In 2017, June Oscar AO becomes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.

Barriers still exist today and despite the gender equality progress, we still have walls to climb.

Barriers to balance:

  • 1 in 3 women in Australia has experienced violence since the age of 15.
  • 1 in 3 women have been sexually harassed since the age of 15.
  • Women are more likely to live below the poverty line.
  • On average, women retire with approximately half the level of retirement savings of men.
  • Women spend twice as much time in unpaid work as men.
  • Women make up 32% of all Federal Parliamentarians and
  • Women account for just 21% of sources directly quoted in news articles.

Women’s rights is everybody’s issue and a shared responsibility, and starting a conversation about what makes a gender-balanced world is a great place to start. Gender balance is equality. At Amnesty we advocate for women having access to all the same rights and opportunities as men. We all need to share this responsibility and on international Women’s Day 2019, let’s embrace the balance for the better.

Words by Jacqui O’Leary

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