Jarrod Kaplan, Darwin Counsellor writes:
Every day, millions of women and their allies are taking steps – sometimes small steps and sometimes strides – towards equality, empowerment and fulfillment of their rights.
For many, International Women’s Day, is just another day along the journey. However, special days like International Women’s Day are an important marker to pause and reflect on all that has been achieved and take stock for the road ahead.
International Women’s Day is celebrated globally on 8th March – it cuts across the divides of ethnicity, language, politics, nationality and class. It is a day of recognition of women’s achievements and a rallying point to build support for women’s rights and participation in the political and economic arenas.
Over the last year, we have witnessed bold, brave and exciting global movements. The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have emboldened women to speak up about harassment and abuse and have reminded us of the power of solidarity and the power in numbers. These movements have also reminded us of how far we have to go and how much courage it takes for women to be silence breakers.
UN Women are marking this International Women’s Day with the message ‘Leave no woman behind’. It is a critical message in using the success and power of these popular movements to make a real difference to the lives of women who do not have the profile or the power that comes with being a Hollywood actor.
So, how is all of this relevant and what should we do about it?
Well, it is estimated by the World Health Organization that one-third of all women worldwide are affected by sexual violence with even more experiencing harassment. Statistics show that 1 in 6 Australian have been subjected, since the age of 15, to physical and/or sexual violence by a current or previous cohabiting partner (ABS 2017b). Family, domestic and sexual violence happens repeatedly—more than half (54%) of the women who had experienced current partner violence, experienced more than one violent incident (ABS 2017b).
The data shows that women are overwhelmingly the main victims of all types of family, domestic and sexual violence. They will most likely know the perpetrator, who is often their current or a previous partner. Indeed, partners pose the greatest risk of violence for women—be it for physical, sexual or emotional abuse. In contrast, men are less likely than women to be the victims of family, domestic and sexual violence, but are much more likely to be the victims of violence from a stranger. (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence in Australia, 2018)
Family violence occurs at higher rates for Aboriginal Australians than for non-Indigenous Australians. Family violence within Indigenous communities needs to be understood as both a cause and effect of social disadvantage and intergenerational trauma (ABS 2016). Aboriginal women are 32 times more likely to be hospitalised due to family violence than other women (ABS 2017b), and the Northern Territory has a two and a half to five times higher rate per capita of family violence than other States or Territories (ABS, 2016). Statistically, this suggests that we all know women who have experienced abuse. It also means, that we likely know men who have perpetrated it.*
In fact, the purpose of #MeToo campaign (by creator Tarana Burke) was to empower all women through empathy, especially young and vulnerable women.
At Relationships Australia NT, over the last year, we have supported more than 1,000 families, many of who presented with family violence issues. This work is critical in providing safe and secure environments.
There are also things that we can all do every day to progress women’s rights. Here’s a few suggestions:
- Be mindful and active about women’s participation – question the lack of women’s participation, for example on speaking panels and for promotion opportunities. Where you see a lack of parity, question it and identify more inclusive alternatives. Think 50/50 as the goal.
- Challenge stereotypes – if you hear people talking about women in negative ways (and it is safe to do so) question them and challenge negative attitudes. This is particularly important with people who love and trust you – call your friends out when you hear this.
- Celebrate women’s achievements – value women’s individual and collective success in whatever forms you see it and make sure women are credited for their work and their contributions.
- Support – seek support, if you, or someone you know, is experiencing harassment, abuse or violence of any kind. Know that there are services out there to support you. Relationships Australia NT is one of many services that are available. Visit our website, call us or drop into our office for support
*It is important to acknowledge that men and boys are also victims of abuse. Given the focus of this post is International Women’s Day, and women are invariably more likely to be the victims of abuse, the focus of this article is the victimisation of women.