Why we still need International Womens Day

The year is 1908. 15,000 women march through New York city demanding shorter working hours, better pay, voting rights and an end to child labour. These women are garment workers, fighting against inhumane working conditions and low wages. Their marches provided the idea for what has become International Women’s Day, celebrated each year on 8 March.

Despite the many changes that have occurred here, Australia continues to need strong daring women. There is still much that is unacceptable. There is still much that we need to raise our voices about, to step forward and speak up about at the local level, in the home, or workplace, on national and international issues.

If you think everything has been ‘fixed’ for women, think again. International Women’s Day is a time to pause and celebrate progress. It is also a day to recommit to achieving change.

Here are 14 reasons why we continue to need International Women’s Day, women’s groups and advocacy for women’s issues, both at home and abroad. (Main sources of information UNIFEM and Office for Women.)

  1. At least one in three women around the world has experienced violence.
  2. One in five women will become a victim of rape or attempted rape in her life time.
  3. For women between 16 and 44 years of age, domestic violence is thought to be the major cause of death and invalidity, ahead of cancer, road accidents and even war.
  4. The most common place for women to experience physical violence in Australia is in the home.
  5. It was estimated that in 2002-03 the costs of domestic violence to the Australian economy was $8.1 billion dollars
  6. 3 billion people live in poverty. 70% of them are women.
  7. 63% of unpaid workers in Australia are women.
  8. Women are poorly represented in decision-making positions.
  9. Every minute at least one woman dies from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth – that results in over 529,000 women a year!
  10. Currently 150m people from overwhelmingly poor countries are predicted to be displaced as a result of climate change. Women and their dependents make up 80% of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons. Yet they are less likely to make claims for refugee status compared to men and are often disadvantaged by the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees which does not explicitly recognise gender as a legitimate basis for persecution.
  11. In 1992 only 41 per cent of Australian women aged over 55 years were covered by superannuation compared with 60 per cent of men.
  12. On average, Australian men earn 20% more than women.
  13. Australian women spend, on average, nearly 3 hours a day on domestic activities, compared to 1.5 hours by men.
  14. Australian women spend nearly three times longer each day on primary child care activities than men.

And we could go on.

Some of these issues have been around a long time. Some have got bigger. Some issues have been dealt with, but vigilance is needed.

How do we make a difference? By each person taking action. Here are ten steps to take:

  1. Keep informed on issues that interest you.
  2. Join local, national, international women’s organisations.
  3. Attend functions run by these organisations.
  4. Join a committee within an organisation.
  5. Talk to friends and family about issues that concern you.
  6. Encourage your family to contribute to these issues.
  7. Be a role model (e.g. of respectful behaviour towards women).
  8. Contribute time, money, goods.
  9. Write to Members of Parliament (state, territory, federal) about issues of concern.
  10. Support people who are willing to be advocates, public leaders, spokespeople.
Dr Ann Villiers, career coach, writer and author, is Australia’s only Mental Nutritionist specialising in mind and language practices that help people build flexible thinking, confident speaking and quality connections with people.