What IWD means for me

I’d like to be able to start this blog post by wishing everyone a Happy IWD 2016! A day to get together with other women, to celebrate what it means to you to be a woman and celebrate the efforts of those who came before us.

However for many in Australia and around the world, it isn’t a happy day. Yes much has been improved but there remains much to be done. Today is a day to stop and remember that there are still structural, legal and societal barriers to women’s equality:

‘Global maternal deaths have dropped by nearly 50 percent since 1990, but 287,000 mothers-to-be still die every year – that is 800 women every day. More than 200 million women want but do not have access to the tools they need to plan their families. Countless girls are held home from school, and girls and women continue to face barriers at nearly every rung of the economic, social and political ladders’.  Jill Sheffield, President and Founder, Women Deliver, at http://archive.skoll.org/

The facts:

Violence against Women

  • A woman dies at the hands of a current or former partner almost every week in Australia.
  • One woman in three has experienced physical violence, since the age of 15.
  • One woman in five has experienced sexual violence.
  • One woman in four had experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner. Women in Australia are three times more likely than men to experience violence at the hands of a partner.
  • More than half of the women who experienced violence had children in their care when the violence occurred.
  • Young women (18 – 24 years) experience significantly higher rates of physical and sexual violence than women in older age groups.
  • There is growing evidence that women with a disability are more likely to experience violence. For example, 90% of Australian women with an intellectual disability have been subjected to sexual abuse.
  • Indigenous women experience disproportionately high levels of family violence.From http://www.ourwatch.org.au/Understanding-Violence/Facts-and-figures


Pay gap

Pay equity in Australia and all over the world is still not a reality:

Full-time average earning difference (Australia) $277.70 per week

Full-time gender pay gap (Australia): 17.3%

From: WGEA website: www.wgea.gov.au

 Life expectancy

The goal to close the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia by 2031 is not on track. Life expectancy for Indigenous women is 73.7 years, compared to 83 for non-Indigenous people. Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/closing-the-gap-five-numbers-that-should-shame-australia-20160210-gmqlbl.html#ixzz42GCjDDym

Child marriage

Among women aged 20 to 24 worldwide, one in four were child brides – See more at: http://data.unicef.org/child-protection/child-marriage.html#sthash.SRVgFzyc.dpuf

Access to education

An estimated 31 million girls of primary school age and 32 million girls of lower secondary school age were out of school in 2013.

Read more: http://www.unicef.org/education/bege_70640.html

Call to action

But rather than wring our hands, and do nothing in despair I use these figures as a call to action. It continues to motivate me to act, to speak out, to write, to research, to march, to advocate, to participate: see Jane Alver in IWD March 2015 outside the UN in New York at http://www.unwomen.org/en/partnerships/civil-society

So this International Women’s Day, acknowledge gains but acknowledge and respond also to calls for further activism, engagement and participation in the local, national and worldwide movements towards equality. Get involved. Speak up and out. Take a stand. Today and every day. There is still much to be done.


Jane Alver is a YWCA Australia National Board Director, YWCA Canberra Life Member, and YWCA Australia Life Member. She is a former President of YWCA Canberra, former Vice-President YWCA Sydney, former President Women Lawyers Association NSW and former Australian Youth Policy & Action Coalition Board member. She attended the Commission on the Status of Women at the UN in 2015 as a civil society delegate. She is currently completing a PhD on civil society women’s rights advocacy. She is on twitter @janealver.




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