Achieving gender equity starts in local communities. Helping people understand how attitudes and behaviours in their own neighbourhoods may be contributing to persistent inequality, is often overlooked.
This International Women’s Day, as women around the world are pressing for progress, we want women to be recognised for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. I believe that to truly progress gender equality, we need to get to the root cause of the big issues that we hear about.
It is important that we know the big facts and statistics, but people also need to understand the local impacts in their own contexts, if they are going to be able to start making changes.
The statistics about violence against women are well reported. In Australia, one in three women have experienced physical violence and one in five have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.
We know that experiences of violence are gendered – with women and men experiencing different types of violence in different contexts. Men are the perpetrators of 95 per cent of violence in Australia.
There is no doubt that we need to stop these alarming statistics, and we also need to consider the serious and long-lasting consequences for women’s health, in particular their sexual and reproductive health and mental health. Experience and fear of violence also has significant social and economic consequences, negatively affecting women’s academic performance, employment and participation in public life.
So what are we doing about all this?
We are starting the conversation and building the capacity of our workers and the people in our community. Because we have strong, trusted relationships and experience, we can do this in a safe and supportive space.
We are now working with groups of women to build their understanding and awareness of the gender drivers of violence which are:
- Rigid gender roles and identities
- Condoning of violence against women
- Men’s control of decision making and limits to women independence
- Male peer relations that emphasis aggression and disrespect towards women
We want to increase the capacity for individuals and/or groups to think about and begin to take action on gender equity.
Achieving gender equity is no small task. Studies tell us that if globally we continue at current rates, gender parity is over 200 years away!
I’d like to think we can get there quicker than that. So we must start today, in our community.