8 March 2022
Natasha Stott Despoja AO (1986)
Member, UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women
Former Ambassador for Women and Girls
IWD is always a great opportunity to commemorate the gains that we have made in advancing the rights and opportunities for women and girls around the world, but it is also a reminder of the challenges that remain in achieving gender equality.
This year’s theme reminds us that women and girls are often affected disproportionately by climate change yet, they are not always in the powerful positions to help mitigate it. I am fortunate to work with organisations, such as Action Aid (actionaid.org.au), which empower women to change their communities, especially when it comes to disaster risk reduction (so often related to climate change).
This IWD, I hope we can support better women’s ability to adapt to climate change, particularly in our region -- with resources and access to decision-making -- but we can also improve our individual efforts in reducing environmental degradation.
Protecting our precious planet and improving the lives of women and girls (and everyone!) go hand in hand… and what better day to reaffirm our commitment to both than International Women’s Day!
Annette Young (1979)
Journalist and Presenter Host, The 51 Percent
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
Given what I do for a living, I believe every day should be International Women’s Day. But it does serve as an annual reminder of how much has yet to be done to reach equality. The war in Ukraine is once again showing how women will solely carry the burden of caring for their families with both women and girls now at risk of heightened violence.
According to current estimates, we will need 136 years to close the gap. Across the globe, women and girls are still yet to be able to fully participate in all aspects of social, political and economic life. We at ‘The 51 Percent’ believe all of us stand to be benefit from equality. For us, an equitable world means a sustainable future.
What does the theme of IWD Australia ‘Changing Climates: Equality today for a sustainable tomorrow’ mean to you?
According to UN Women, of the 21.5 million women displaced every year by climate change-related events, 80 percent are women. As Australia’s east coast experiences record rainfall and flooding, it is vital to acknowledge the impact this will have on women in the region. Yet as UN Women points out, women still remain largely ignored when it comes to developing solutions and their capabilities are often under-utilised. That is why it is imperative to dramatically boost female representation in all sectors especially in the world of politics and business. Research shows that when leadership has 30 percent of women, a tipping point is reached and the culture of that respective organisation changes dramatically for the better. A more diverse leadership is paramount as the world now confronts its greatest challenge.
So again, repeating what I wrote above, an equitable world means a sustainable future.
Junior School House Captains (Year 6s)
Benji: My mum and my dance teacher are both women I look up to. They are both really hard workers.
Henry: I’ve heard Malala’s story, she is a leader who fights for education.
Maeve and Ellie: Florence Nightingale is a woman from the Crimean War, she worked really hard to care for soldiers and was known as the Lady with the Lamp.
Lauren (Year 10)
Wright House Middle School Captain
To me, International Women’s Day is about, not only acknowledging the past fight for gender equality, but also recognising how far we have to go to achieve an equitable society for all. Its also important to acknowledge that International Women’s Day celebrates the rights of women in all their diversities, including race, sexual identity, disability, or faith, who have previously been excluded in the women’s rights movement. We’ve come a long way, in that regard, from achieving the right for women to vote and work, increasing the statistics of equal pay, decriminalizing reproductive rights in Australia, and making breakthroughs in typically ‘male-dominated’ spaces (work, education, or otherwise) in recent years. However, there are still issues impacting women across the globe that deserve to be talked about and solved. Some examples include gendered violence, sexual harassment, and the repercussions of gender roles (which also negatively impact men and all genders). International Women’s Day pushes these issues to the forefront while providing a backdrop for celebrating the achievements the fight for gender equality has made.
The theme for the 2022 International Women’s Day is ‘Changing Climates: Equality today for a sustainable tomorrow. I think that this idea perfectly captures the push for intersectionality in the gender equality movement. Climate change has caused an increase in rising sea levels, heatwaves, droughts, and extreme storms, all of which have been proven to disproportionately affect women (Global Citizen, 2022). United Nations analysts have determined that this is because women are more likely to live in poverty than men, have less access to basic human rights (notably the ability to move freely and acquire land) and face systematic and oppressive violence that escalates during periods of instability. Despite this, 67% of all climate-related decision-making roles are currently held by men (IWDA, 2022). The solution to this, like most, isn’t always clear-cut, however, a start would be by making these types of leadership roles an equal ratio between men and women, and by having open-minded discussions from a variety of perspectives. As a society, we are constantly evolving, and so should our climate policies; by investing and creating jobs in renewable and low emission energy, as well as holding corporations accountable for their impact on the environment. On an individual level, there are many simple ways we can help, such as reducing our carbon footprint and empowering all genders. Ultimately, International Women’s Day is about celebrating gender equality for all, breaking down barriers on individual and systemic levels, in order to address the complex issues women experience in their daily lives.
Eddie (Year 10)
Smith House Middle School Captain
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
International Women's Day to me is a global day where all people can come together to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. This day also highlights the action that needs to take place with gender equality. International Women's Day also brings groups of people together to rally for the rights of Women. International Women's Day overall is a special day where people can come together and join voices to celebrate girls and women, by recognising the highs of girls and women's achievements and diversity and by shining a light on the lows of gender equality and women's rights with the notion of moving forward for the better.
What does the theme ‘Changing Climates: Equality today for a sustainable tomorrow’ mean to you?
The theme ‘Changing Climates: Equality today for a sustainable tomorrow’ to me is recognizing women and girls across the globe that are leading on climate change adaptation, mitigation, and response, to build a more sustainable future for all. The importance of this theme is that by recognizing the women and girls that are making a difference for good will inspire more and more women and girls to follow in their footsteps and to help the world with not just the problem of climate change but for many more challenges in the future. The theme will also show large companies and governments that women and girls are more than capable to perform in jobs or roles of high importance, emphasizing gender equality. Overall, the theme of International Womens Day was chosen to inspire women and girls that they too can be effective and powerful change makers for not only climate change adaption but lots more challenges that we are facing today and will be in the future.
Monique and Liam (Year 12)
Head Girl and Head Boy
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
Liam: International Women’s Day to me is an opportunity to focus the world on promoting equality between men and women, to correct the bias that had been, and still partly is, so deeply ingrained in society for far too long. Although a day is far too fleeting to properly address this issue, it is a very impactful and useful day to push this movement forward.
Monique: International Women’s Day also allows us the opportunity to recognise amazing accomplishments of extraordinary women, who have inspired all of us to stand up for what we believe in. For me, two women that come to mind are Michelle Payne and Malala Yousafzi. Michelle Payne, a past Australian jockey, discovered her passion for horse riding very young and unfortunately was involved in a horrible accident, which resulted in her fracturing her skull and bruising her brain. She also faced adversity because she was trying to excel in a male dominated sport. However, after overcoming these challenges and with much hard work, Michelle Payne became the first woman to win the Melbourne Cup. Malala Yousafzi, a Pakistani activist, advocated for everyone’s right to an education. As she once said, “one child, one teacher and one pen can change the world.” Despite a few setbacks along the way, she continued to fight for change and as a result, she received a Nobel Peace Prize. She was only in school when her advocacy began, which I believe is inspirational to everyone throughout our school community and makes us fully appreciate the opportunities we have at Pembroke. Hence, International Women’s Day reminds us of the role models throughout our community and beyond, who encourage us to keep pursuing our own personal goals and to contribute to society.
What does the theme, “Changing climates: Equality today for a sustainable tomorrow” mean to you?
Liam: Climate change is a wicked problem, with many different causes and effects. So, if we are to stop climate change, the solution would have to be on a global scale and encompass all aspects of our lives. As a solution must be all encompassing, everyone on the globe has the right to contribute their own opinion to this effort. So, when I learnt that 2.7 billion women are currently restricted from getting the same choice of jobs as men, I was shocked. This means that over 33% of the world’s population doesn’t have a fair chance of getting a say in the methods to deal with climate change. This gross injustice must be righted before the issue can be tackled to its full potential.
Liam: It also made me think of Greta Thunberg. Greta is an inspirational young Swedish woman that has put it all on the line to raise awareness about the growing climate issue. I now can’t help thinking that there are 2.7 billion more potential Greta Thunbergs that may never be truly recognised due to gender bias.
Monique: The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day not only acknowledges the importance of acting on climate change, but that it requires everyone’s efforts to make a significant change. If we act on this issue as a united front, then we are more likely to succeed in making a difference to this cause.
While we support women in many ways at Pembroke and perhaps most importantly through the development of a culture of respect and action, it still seems to me not enough. I think until it is possible for women to receive equal access and rights to all aspects that make up Australia’s unfinished progress, we are failing them. What of the laws around violence against women, the culture of domestic violence, insufficient national paid maternity leave schemes, underrepresentation in far too many aspects of Australian life. We can do better but it requires unprecedented collective will to reform our institutions, governance and democratic systems to really get it right. What is exciting now is a sense in our community that what we have can be changed.
As a school Principal, the inspiration I receive about women’s equality comes from each generation of women and many young men who attend the School. They want more for women because there remain fundamental injustices. Sometimes I ask myself, what if the founding fathers of democracy were the founding mothers? What institutional, political, social, economic, and governance arrangements may be different and why? It is a compelling idea and question to consider, and the possibilities for change become more easily understood when you do some prospection of this nature.
We are not sustainable until these fundamental matters of gender equality are addressed. We are only half of what we could be. I see much light ahead, indeed.