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Motion: International Womens Day



Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. I. Pnevmatikos:

That this council—

1. Acknowledges that 8 March 2023 is International Women's Day and pays tribute to those who have fought, and continue to fight, for the advancement of the status of women and girls.

2. Notes this year's theme Embrace Equity recognises that each one of us can actively support and embrace equity within our own sphere of influence to challenge gender stereotypes, call out discrimination and draw attention to bias.

3. Acknowledges that whilst much has been achieved, women still face entrenched inequality, violence and barriers to equal and active participation in our economy and in every aspect of community life.

4. Commits to doing whatever it can to work towards—

(a) preventing and eradicating sexism, harassment, violence and abuse of women in all of its forms;

(b) challenging stereotypes, discrimination and bias against women; and

(c) continuing to advance the status of women and girls.

5. Commends the state government for its strong women's equality and safety policy and actions.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (17:20): I rise today to speak on behalf of the Greens in support of this motion on International Women's Day. Today, we recognise a day that I know is important to so many of us in this chamber, and I am glad that many more of us in this chamber are women than when I first started some 13 years ago.

It is certainly a day to celebrate how far we have come, but it is also a day to reflect on how far we still have to go. Its history lies with the socialist working women's movement of the early 20th century and was marked for the first time in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where over one million people attended rallies about women's right to vote, hold public office, improve vocational training, improve working conditions and put an end to discrimination. In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly officially declared an International Women's Day with a resolution proclaiming a United Nation's Day for Women's Rights and International Peace.

In more recent times, International Women's Day aims to recognise the achievements of women but also the challenges women still face today, with a strong focus on the rights of women and gender equality. I refer to a quote from journalist and social-political activist Gloria Steinem, who suggests that:

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.

Indeed, women's rights are human rights and we are all human. We must use this day as a time to reflect on how far left we still have to go before reaching true equality. In March this year, the inaugural Status of Women Report Card showed that women and girls in Australia are still facing unique economic and social challenges. Twice as many women experience sexual harassment as men, and women over 55 are the fastest growing group of people experiencing homelessness.

Women still do the lion's share (or the lioness' share) of unpaid housework, even if they are the primary breadwinner, at 24.1 hours compared to 19.1 hours for men. These factors contribute to Australia being ranked 43rd in the world for gender equality—where once we led the way—according to the World Economic Forum's analysis. This makes the challenge even greater. Thirty per cent of Australian men do not believe that gender inequality exists, which is well above the global average of 21 per cent.

However, the honest reality is, even though we have made and continue to make strides to equality, we are not there yet, and in some respects our progress has stalled. Women approaching retirement have 23.1 per cent less superannuation than men of the same age, on average, and yet still cannot access super during paid parental leave.

Initial studies also suggest that 28 per cent of perimenopausal and postmenopausal (something I look forward to) women in Australia will have moderate to severe symptoms that impact their workforce participation, and yet more is not being done to understand barriers that exist to women participating in the workforce at this point of their lives. I hope the Malinauskas government uses these statistics to make improving the lives of all women a priority.

This year, the UN Women Australia's theme for IWD was 'Cracking the Code: Innovation for a gender equal future'. This highlights the role that the utilisation of digital technology in connecting, mobilising and driving social change has made on the marginalisation of women across the globe.

We have seen this power manifest through the women and girls who campaigned online to repeal near total bans on abortion in Colombia and Ireland. In Iran, young women have been using social media to speak up and challenge the regime's patriarchal norms and express their demands for equality and women in Sudan have led protests against religious fundamentalism and now autocratic rule using online tools to mobilise that population.

While the digital world, of course, offers us immense opportunities, it is not immune to the persistent backlash against women's rights and gender equality in itself. In the digital space, many women and girls, including those who are LGBTQIA+, are up against gender-based violence, misogynist attacks and digital exclusion.

We must protect the rights of women and girls in all their diversity and in digital spaces to collectively counter the anti-rights and anti-gender narratives used by groups to misinform societies and undermine the advancement of women's rights and gender equality. As feminists, we will not be divided and we will stand with all for equality. With that, I commend the motion.

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