In 2014, 70% of the world’s poor are women. Although women perform 2/3 of the world’s work, they earn less than 10% of the world’s wages, and own only 1% of the world’s property. Women are far more likely than men to live in poverty because of discrimination and lack of access to education, employment and financial services.
In Australia, 1 in 3 women will experience physical violence in their lifetime. In Australia, only 2% of the CEOs of major companies are women. In Australia, women retire with half the superannuation savings as men. In Australia, women earn 17 cents per dollar less than men. In Australia, older women are 2 1/2 times more likely to live in poetry than men. (Those statistics are from UN Women Australia.) Incredibly one woman dies every week from domestic violence in Australia in 2014. (Sydney Morning Herald, Time to Act on Domestic Violence.)
In some respects, it seems to me we’ve come a long way. Yet many doors are closed against women. Girls and women all over the world are disempowered and live in fear of violence. There’s still so far to go before these issues can be resolved fairly, before we have equality and respect for all.
And yet, today, I’m glad to be a woman. I am delighted to belong to the sisterhood, if you will. When travelling overseas and at home, I’ve learnt that other women have much in common with me. We’re the carers, the wives, the mothers, the helpers. We’re the ones who do our best to raise our boys and girls to be happy, resilient and respectful adults. We’re there for our friends when they need us- lending a hand, sharing a meal, listening to their problems.
When our eyes meet those of a new female acquaintance, we know we probably have a shared understanding of what it’s like to grow up female in our society. We see a mother rocking from foot to foot ahead of us at the supermarket queue, and somehow, we’re rocking too, even if all we’re holding is a bag of oranges. We smile politely at other women waiting their turn to be squeezed into a mammogram vice, and hope for a positive result for us all . We meet and read about women losing children, husbands, their own lives, and we swallow a lump in our throats. We learn of the violence perpetrated against women even in our own towns, and we choke back tears. What hurts one of us, hurts us all.
Where International Women’s Day is about remembering the plight of women in many countries, including our own, it’s about so much more. International Women’s Day is also a time to celebrate being a woman. It’s a time to remember that we are one with other women, whatever their race, creed or circumstances. It’s a day to resolve that in small or big ways, we’ll do our best to help other women reach their full potential. We must also teach our boys and girls to respect themselves and others, and explain to them the importance of International Women’s Day. Respect is the key.