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On October 10th 2017, David Bornstein wrote a piece for the New York Times FIXES section which looks at solutions to social problems and why they work. David Bornstein is the author of “How to Change the World,” which has been published in 20 languages, and “The Price of a Dream: The Story of the Grameen Bank,” and is a co-author of “Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know.” He is a co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network, which supports rigorous reporting about responses to social problems.

His piece for the NYT, Giving Capitalism a Social Conscience, is an interview with the amazing Professor Muhammad Yunus. the Bangladeshi founder of the Grameen Bank and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. They discussed, amongst other things, his new book, “A World of Three Zeros: The New Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment, and Zero Net Carbon Emissions”. Below are some statements from Professor Yunus that I found particularly interesting.

  • The most powerful way to eradicate poverty is to unleash the untapped entrepreneurial capacity of people everywhere.
  • Poverty is not created by poor people. It’s created by the system we built. Poor people are like a bonsai tree. You take the best seed from the tallest tree in the forest, but if you put it in a flower pot to grow, it grows only a meter high. There’s nothing wrong with the seed. The problem is the size of the pot. Society doesn’t give poor people the space to grow as tall as everybody else. This is the crux of the matter.
  • Capitalism is in crisis and remains moored in a flawed conception of human motivation. A far more robust role in the economy for social businesses, “non-dividend” companies “dedicated to solving human problems.”
  • We need to abandon our unquestioning faith in the power of personal-profit-centered markets to solve all problems and confess that the problems of inequality are not going to be solved by the natural working of the economy as it is currently structured
  • In capitalist theory, it is assumed that man is entirely driven by self-interest. That’s definitely not the description of a real human being. Human beings are selfish, and at the same time they are equally selfless, if not more. They want to help others.
  • Capitalism is all about options. But in the economic system, there is only one kind of business: business to make money — and it’s made more extreme by saying it produces best results when one maximizes profit.
  • When we introduce the selflessness of people in the business world we get another option. Alongside conventional business, we add another type of business that will allow us to express our selflessness through business. The exclusive goal of this business, which I call social business, is to solve people’s problems.
  • Canadian company McCain Foods wanted to create a social business jointly with us. They have 60 percent of the French fry market in the world. Jointly we are doing a social business in Colombia. Many Colombian farmers struggle to make a living, like in many other countries. Campo Vivo, our social business, helps farmers grow potatoes and vegetables with high yields. Once McCain put on social business glasses, they started seeing new possibilities. They created Bon et Biento buy up these potatoes and produce potato soup. They hire youth who have been unemployed. They could make money from this, but they decided not to — to make the soup and vegetables good and cheap.
  • If you remove the personal profit motive and think only about solving problems, you will suddenly see lots of possibilities that you didn’t see before.
  • If selflessness becomes the driving force behind development of technology instead of personal profit, suddenly technology transforms into an enormously powerful force to change the world very rapidly. Then artificial intelligence will be developed to solve health care problems of people instead of taking away jobs. If you focus on the selfless part of human beings, the whole economy changes.
  • By the end of next year, Grameen America will have lent almost $1 billion to 100,000 borrowers, with repayment remaining nearly 100 percent. Over the next 10 years, Grameen America would like to double from 20 to 40 branches. Even with that modest growth, it can reach 500,000 borrowers by 2028. If more generous funding were available, it could reach a million borrowers. If it had a limited banking license, it could take deposits like we do in the Grameen Bank and its expansion will not be limited by availability of funds.
  • Schools can bring into the curriculum the idea that business doesn’t have to be profit maximizing. You can design it to solve people’s problems while you recover your costs and recycle your money. They can have assignments to design businesses to solve problems: how to bring clean water to a village; how to bring education, literacy, housing or health care to a remote community; how to make a crowded slum a decent place where there is health care, education, good roads. There are many universities setting up social business centers and teaching this. Every business school should be offering both conventional M.B.A.s and social M.B.A.s.

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Muhammad Yunus Credit Andreas Solaro/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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11th October 2017 is the international day of the girl. 6 years ago, On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly voted to pass a resolution adopting October 11, 2012 as the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child.

The resolution states that the Day of the Girl recognizes: “empowerment of and investment in girls, which are critical for economic growth, the achievement of all Millennium Development Goals, including the eradication of poverty and extreme poverty, as well as the meaningful participation of girls in decisions that affect them, are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights, and recognizing also that empowering girls requires their active participation in decision-making processes and the active support and engagement of their parents, legal guardians, families and care providers, as well as boys and men and the wider community.”

The International Day of the Girl Child initiative grew out of Plan International’s Because I Am a Girl campaign, which raises awareness of the importance of nurturing girls globally and in developing countries in particular.

Each year’s Day of the Girl has a theme; the first was “ending child marriage”, then “innovating for girl’s education”, 2014 was “Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence.” 2015 was “The Power of Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030” 2016 was “Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: What Counts for Girls.”. This year’s theme is “EmPOWER Girls: Emergency response and resilience planning.”

Whilst the theme is about empowerment, we still have a lot of work to do to bring girls around the world onto the same level so that empowerment is standardised across the world.

According to UN statistics, there are 100 million girls missing around the world. Where have they gone? Many of them are left on the sides of roads, drowned, maimed and thrown in trash bins. But even more of them have been aborted. The reason? They were girls, not boys.

Sex-selective abortion, also colloquially known as “gendercide,” is a huge problem. For every 200 girls born, one is refused the chance to see the light of day just because she is a female. Over the last 14 years, there were an average of 4,575 abortions every day. That comes to about one abortion motivated by gender every 18 seconds. Which means that if you make it into the world as a girl you’ve already achieved something.

But that doesn’t mean you are safe. Global child mortality is at around 4% and studies show that infant homicide is still predominantly female. So being born and then staying alive after birth is also an achievement.

As a girl, you have less chance of being educated than if you were a boy. Twice as many girls as boys will never start school in countries all around the world. Girls are almost two and a half more likely to be out of school if they live in conflict-affected countries, and young women are nearly 90% more likely to be out of secondary school than their counterparts in countries not affected by conflict. So being born, staying alive and getting to go to school is an achievement.

Then there is the struggle to stay in school as you get older and battle cultural and societal pressures.

  • Millions of girls are at risk of FGM
  • One in four girls globally are married before they reach 18.
  • Discrimination because of disability is real. The literacy rate for adults with disabilities is 3%. For women with disabilities the literacy rate is even lower, at 1%.
  • Each month, when you get your period you could be shunned from society. In some countries you’re seen as untouchable and forced to sleep outside.
  • As a girl, you’re at greater risk of HIV. Girls aged 10 to 14 are more likely than boys to die of Aids-related illnesses.
  • Worldwide, the biggest killer of girls aged 15 to 19 is suicide.
  • Teenagers are at more risk of having unsafe abortions than older women.
  • Maternal death is the second biggest cause of mortality for girls aged 15 to 19.

Making it through school is an achievement.
Growing up without being shunned for naturally occurring bodily functions is an achievement.
But guess what? If you make it through school, dodge early marriage and get into paid employment, the odds are you’ll earn less for doing the same job as your male colleagues. And then there’s life outside work. UN women estimated that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lives.

So how exactly can we empower girls with regards to emergency planning and resilience response when we are yet to bring girls around the world on equal footing? When it’s an achievement just to stay alive, healthy and educated? When will we be able to say that girls are just as equipped as boys to achieve their potential? That the path to success and empowerment for girls is as obstacle free as for boys?

It’s a long slow road to success but it hasn’t been in vain. Studies by the UN show that when girls are given an opportunity to learn, they learn at a faster rate than boys. Governments and organisations are working together to eradicate infanticide and child marriage. To raise awareness and educate men, boys, families and socieities. To ensure the safety and well-being of girls within and outside the home. When more women work, economies grow. Studies show that an increase in female labour force participation results in faster economic growth. Evidence from a range of countries shows that increasing the share of household income controlled by women, changes spending in ways that benefit children.

World leaders have set targets and made promises regarding female health and education. Globally companies and organisations are working hard to bridge the pay gap and create gender friendly environments.

But until a father provides his daughter with the same opportunities as his son, until a mother supports her daughter’s dreams of education and professional experience, until a brother fights cultural prejudice and oppressive practices to ensure his sister is safe – there is no end to the suffering of the girl child. Change begins with me. With you. With the support you give to the girls and women around you.

Girls of the world are watching. We will speak out, we will support our fellow girls and women till all of us are able to achieve more than that which is a basic human right. Give us opportunity and watch us soar.

 

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Tjanara Goreng Goreng is a Wakka Wakka Wulli Wuilli Traditional Custodian from Central Queensland Australia, a PhD candidate and the Founder and National Convener of the Foundation for Indigenous Recovery and Development, Australia. An Adjunct Assistant Professor for UC, Tjanara has had extensive teaching and government experience.

Tjanara spoke about gender, politics and public policy to address gender and intersectional concerns in policy for the Australian Federal Parliament and provide recommendations for the participants to include in their report. Some insights from her included:

Women in the world

  • Gender is never about sex. It varies by dimensions of life. Basic condition of life, safety health education and work, access to markets and space and people’s own free expression identified by alignment to a gender or group.
  • Individual Bodies can be typed in many ways but social practices of gender appear unproblematic in some social contexts and therefore impossible to solve. In some contexts gender dictates power, professional structures, social norms, familial hierarchies and personal relationships among many others.
  • We live in a diverse world where power resides with the male western patriarchy for the most part. There are some countries and cultures where women hold social positions of power.
  • But fear of the capacity of women and what they can do has diminished women’s role in society. Women can bear and give birth and with the advent of technology may not even need men soon to procreate and continue society
  • Roman society instituted the stereotyped norms practiced today to disadvantage women. For example women used to live with catholic priests and more often than not inherited his property when he passed. To keep this wealth, the Roman Catholic Church forbade priests to marry. Property dictates much of the power struggles of the western world
  • Prior to Napoleon, many powerful women held salons where politics was shaped in discussions of philosophy, politics and public policy in the exciting context of the revolution. This happened to a lesser extent in Britain and the US.
  • There has been a significant increase in women entering public office in recent decades which has consequences for public office and the general public. Women differ not only in those two categories but within themselves. Who they are, their backgrounds, their ethnic ambitions and objectives
  • Women like Margaret Thatcher control their power much like men so what’s the point of them breaking the glass ceiling?
  • Women in local councils are more active in gender discussions and take policy positions in a wider range of issues than men. They are more likely to take leadership issues to translate feminist policy attitudes into change and make programs or initiatives around them
  • Men exhibit a more instrumental and women a more contextual attitude to policy orientation. Women’s approaches are broader and interconnected to facilitate interactions rather than control and direct debates.
  • Women public officials do have an impact on gendered public policy or bring gender into policy discussions. Women are making a difference and as they achieve more positions of seniority and influence they influence private sector as well as the public space
  • New institutions may not fulfil the objectives of their creation because they are trapped by gendered norms which they try to dispel
  • Women need to address:
    • How are formal and non-formal rules gendered?
    • How can we institutionalise change to stop gendered inequality?

The indigenous story

  • Women are equal to men because of their responsibilities of the sacred business (Chukapah), the rearing of children and the physiological wellbeing of the whole clan. This is still practiced by the Kata Tujia people of Uluru
  • Believe that all beings are sacred and born with the same innate qualities. You are spirit before you are human and you become human to interact with others.
  • First and foremost you need to accept your spiritual self and purpose of being which imbues a sense of respect for self and respect for others and their spiritual being
  • Purpose of life is to interact with people on the basis of their spiritual being rather than physical being (features) and respect and honour Nunjanatia (the land)
  • The aboriginal law of Kanini is the harmony and unconditional love of all things
  • Aboriginal culture has an express way of managing the biological differences of men and women including laws regulating violence, crimes and misconduct.
  • Women rear all children to teach them how to be friends and co-exist. As they grow older, the men teach the boys how to have sexual relationships with girls and women teach girls how to evolve into their roles and responsibilities
  • When you go to indigenous communities now, don’t go to the men. Go to the female elders who run the community and can tell you about the spiritual chukapah and structure of leadership (sacred leaders) in order to manage conflict, think of the whole and bring about relations between people.
  • Women keep certain information (childbirth) in the realm of mystery enabling men to respect women.
  • Systems of power, race, gender and class cannot be understood independent of each other. They mutual construct each other and reinforce our attitudes to them.
  • Considerable power in class structures is residual from British colonialism and will not change if we do not address them
  • It is the responsibility of future generations to use the wealth of knowledge available and advancements in technology to create change by addressing gender and racial inequality

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Day 2 began with Barbara Bickie using HDBI to “Discover your leadership style”.  She is an educator, at Charles Sturt University, a published author, PhD candidate, specialist in juvenile justice, child protection and the President of the National Council of Women Australia.

The Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) is a system to measure and describe thinking preferences in people, developed by William Herrmann while leading management education at General Electric’s Crotonville facility. It is a type of cognitive style measurement and model which looks something like this.

 whole-brain-model-2016

The activity was to pick up cards that you most identify with, these were mine.

Capture

Read more about HDBI here.

Next we had Tjanara Goreng Goreng speak to us about gender, politics and public policy. A fascinating session that requires it’s own post which you can read here.

Our team activity output:

CaptureThe next speaker after lunch was Virginia Haussenger.  Virginia is the BroadAgenda 50/50 Chief Editor and the Director of the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation. She is also an award-winning television journalist, writer and commentator, with a career spanning 25 years. Virginia facilitated a workshop on political communication, preparing us for media interviews and engaging with politicians. Insights from the session include:

  • Watch a documentary on Zelda D’Aprano who chained herself to the Commonwealth Building in Spring Street, Melbourne, to protest pay inequality, until she was cut free by the Commonwealth Police. The event drew enormous attention to the Equal Pay campaign. She tipped off the media that she would do this protest because she knew they would be interested in the drama of the situation.

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  • Australia’s first female Liberal Premier for NSW, Gladys Berejiklian was asked less than an hour into her role, if she was fit for her role as an unmarried woman with no babies – by a female reporter. In the ensuing cacaphony, she went off to the side and sat with her head in her hands till it died down.
  • The optics matter, COAG in 2011 had 4 women out of 11 and now we are back to 1/11.
  • The leadership model in Australia remains very male since they were designed by and for men. Over time we have tried to fit women into the model rather than redesign the structures and how we view leadership
  • Women in power quietly but fiercely own their own optics. Quentin Bryce wears colourful outfits, Hillary has her pantsuits and Christine Lagarde has made her dangly earrings and coloured scarf her trademark.
  • The debasement of the office of Parliament was alarmingly evident during Gillard’s tenure. Suddenly the rules changed for media across Australia
  • Progress is not inevitable and the hardest won gains remain the most vulnerable to being swept away.
  • Damned if you smile and damned if you don’t. – Me.
  • Women discussing their gender are not ‘playing the gender card’, they are discussing who they are. Facts.
  • When you have a strong sense of your purpose and values, they will allow you to deliver a consistent message. You can’t control the media, but you can control your message.
  • Leadership is more than dark suits. When women in leadership wear colour, they show diversity of leadership and in doing so affect change
  • When delivering a politcal message, focus on syntax and cadence to avoid muddying your message with extranneous words. Design your message for your audience. A great example of this is Emma Watson’s speech at the HeForShe Campaign 2014 to the UN.

And finally I want to leave you with something my mentor Sarah Elphick once said to me, ‘A woman trying to act like a man is a waste of a good woman.’

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In preparation for the #GirlsTakeover Parliament Program as part of Plan International’s global #GirlsTakeover initiative, we all participated in a 2 day training weekend to prepare for the takeover.

Day 1 was full of introductions and hesitant smiles which quickly turned into insightful discussions sparked by a speech by the Deputy Commissioner Operations in the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Leanne Close, who shared her experience of her 26 year career as well as the leadership qualities she’s learnt and looks for when recruiting.

Leanne’s tips for leadership qualities are:

  • Be inclusive in your thinking so that you are generating a wide spectrum of ideas
  • Seek feedback from those around you – higher or lower in the hierarchy
  • Develop people – learn who they are and be invested in their success
  • Understand not only your strengths and style but that of others
  • Build confidence within yourself and others
  • Become a global citizen by reading and building awareness
  • Anticipate and build for the future by thinking about the impacts of now

To do this:

  • Know your job well
  • Try new roles and opportunities
  • Seek opportunities for personal development
  • Understand your team

Following Leanne’s speech was Speaker Training from TedxCanberra’s Ingrid Tomanovits. Ingrid is the ACT’s consummate learning and development specialist and is now the Licensee of TEDxCanberra. Her session was such a privilege to be part of because through her two exercises she drew out from a group of 20 odd women such personal anecdotes, life stories and insights that made me proud to realise I was in the company of such inspirational women. Some tips I took from Ingrid’s session spoken by either Ingrid herself or women in the group are:

  • Public speaking is answering the questions:
    • What do you want people to know
    • What do you want people to feel
    • What do you want people to do
  • Say your name and why you are here to establish for yourself and the audience that you are relevant to the conversation
  • It’s normal to become anxious, have dry mouth and a rapid heartbeat before you speak. It shows you care and that you are invested in what you are doing. Own it.
  • Any strength overplayed becomes a weakness
  • Drink water 48-72 hours before your speech to avoid dry mouth
  • Include everyone in the room and change the dynamic (if you feel people are not participating or active listening)
  • You don’t have to be the expert, guide the conversation by telling your story
  • The congruence of the words you use, what you say and the way you say it is the sweet spot for good public speaking.
  • If you become overwhelmed when speaking, pick a point to focus on and think about the negative emotion then look to your peripheral vision and the emotion will dissipate.
  • Be memorable for the right reasons, saying your name is one of the ways to help people connect to the points you are making
  • Watch Social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s TedX talk, Your body language may shape who you are

After a lunch break of delicious pide from Yarralumla Turkish Pide House we were back. This time Saul took us through the findings of the “She Can Lead” report that Plan Australia commissioned Essential Research to do on the potential of girls to lead. We will be using the findings of this report to talk to members of Parliament.

Saul Zavarce is a Venezuelan Australian media professional currently studying a Masters of International Relations. He is the Media Officer at Plan International Australia and Head of Advocacy for Venezuelan Australian Democratic Council. Some takeaways from this session was:

  • Don’t mansplain and say you are trying to learn, if you genuinely want to learn – Google’s free.
  • 13 years of mandatory secular education (primary and high school) do not equip you to identify women’s sexual organs, issues, health concerns and discern between facts and fiction
  • Re: female sexual education – “Get a mirror, get acquainted” – Adriana
  • Animalistic male desire won’t stop you from becoming president but a period will – Saul
  • Women find it harder to negotiate remuneration and will more often than not settle for minimum wage or less than they deserve
  • Not only is there a disparity between the entry rates of men and women into professional fields, but the attrition rates are disparate as well with a huge number of women leaving the professional fields as the rank becomes more senior
  • Quotas are the demise of mediocre men
  • Women who infiltrate the boys club is either sexualised or ‘one of the boys i.e non-threatening’ or not part of the club and ostracised which has impacts on career development
  • We need education about what consent looks like to address the issue of victim blaming which is bigger than just the issue of consent. We need to address the social, cultural, religious and classist prejudice that implicitly and explicitly allows victim-blaming
  • Call out gendered language and behaviour to boys and girls. I.e. telling boys to ‘man-up’ if they cry or telling girls they need to look pretty rather than be smart.
  • As a youth, you can say radical things. Lobbiysts make deals. Your job as an advocate is to voice radical ideas
  • Venezuelan constitution states stay-at-home motherhood as an occupation in its constitution, which entitles housewives to wages and social security from the Government.

Recommendations that would make it easier for women to be leaders:

  • Gender studies in schools
  • Education regarding cultural concepts of love, relationships
  • Ban sexist advertising prohibiting public advertising that undermines the equal status of women
  • Job skills and negotiation training
  • Removing pictures and CVs from recruitment processes
  • Mentoring and support to provide more leadership opportunities
  • Remove gendered school uniforms
  • Address the gender pay gap by raising the minimum wage in public sector and providing incentives for private sector

Then we had a quick session on Media Training and how to have a successful interview.

  • Acknowledge a questions no matter how difficult
  • Bridge the gap to a topic you are comfortable with
  • Deliver your key messages succinctly.

Quick fire mentoring from:

  • Corporate: Rosanne Brand
  • Artist: Ruth O’Brien

The end of day 1 was celebrated by watching Bend it like Beckham and eating pizza.

Bring on day 2!

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Last month, I was browsing Facebook in bed at 11:30pm before I went to sleep and came across a post about a competition being held by Plan international called #girlstakeover. The brief was to write 200 words on what you would do if you were Prime Minister for a day. I had never heard about either the organisation or the initiative but it seemed to fit in with my passion of women’s empowerment so I applied a minute before the deadline with the response below:

If I were to be Prime Minister of this great nation for a day, I would focus my energies on the past, present and future. I would acknowledge the reality of Australia’s history and the rights of the original occupants of our wide brown land by ensuring indigenous people are recongised in social, economical and politcal forums and their opinions are heard with regards to domestic and international policies. I would ensure the present generation of women and children are protected from abuse, violence and vulnerability via displacement by providing shelter and education to those at home and those that come across the seas to our boundless plains. For our future, I would seek to address the refugee crisis and climate change. Two giant issues that have no easy solution by making educated and informed decisions based on expert opinion. To do all this I would spend my day as an inclusive and open leader, hearing all voices regardless of gender religion or race.

A week later I found out I had made it into the #girlstakeover Program so I thought I should find out what I had gotten into! It turns out I had gotten into something pretty awesome!

Plan International is an independent development and humanitarian organisation that advances children’s rights and equality for girls. They strive for a just world, working together with children, young people, our supporters and partners. Each year they hold a global event where young women are chosen, given training and support and then take over parliament in their city for a day.

This year I am part of a group of young women in Canberra participating in the #GirlsTakeover Parliament Program, part of Plan International’s global #GirlsTakeover initiative. As part of the commemoration of International Day of the Girl on 11 October 2017, 600 takeovers in 60 countries will take place across the world. Canberra will be one of the locations where this action is occurring.

This initiative is great because it creates a platform in a space young girls often have difficulty accessing. In Canberra, this activism will be occurring in both the Legislative Assembly and Federal Parliament. The program is being led by two awesome local young women – Caitlin Figueiredo and Ashleigh Streeter – who signed up local members of Legislative Assembly and members of Federal Parliament to be involved and commit to a multipartisan message that our Local and Federal Parliaments are “committed to defending the rights and potential of young women and girls.”

On 11 October, we will take over the offices of local representatives from across party lines. On 18 October, we will enter Federal Parliament and occupy the offices of 19 Parliamentarians from every political party. During this time, we will shadow the politicians for the day and present these representatives with Plan International Australia’s national report on how to increase the participation of young women in political decision-making.

I am so please to have stumbled across this program and will post about our training weekend and the actual takeover soon. Till then, you can read about the initiative here and follow it using #girlstakeover as well as follow Plan international on social media or their website.

takeover-what-why

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Happy International women’s day! To those of you who are unfamiliar, International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8, is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women all over the world.

International Women’s Day (IWD) has been observed since in the early 1900’s – a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialised world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies. International Women’s Day is a collective day of global celebration and a call for gender parity.

World-renowned feminist, journalist and social and political activist Gloria Steinem said, “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”. Thus International Women’s Day is all about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action – whatever that looks like globally and locally.

As a woman, for me, IWD is a day to celebrate the achievements of our gender, past and present. Whether it’s Ida B Wells, the African-American journalist, newspaper editor, suffragist, sociologist, feminist, Georgist, and an early leader in the Civil Rights Movement, or Ada Lovelace, Countess of Lovelace was an English mathematician and writer, or even the Egyptian Lotfia ElNadi who was the first African woman as well as first Arab woman to earn a pilot’s license. All these women have paved the way in their respective fields so that we have the rights we do today – The right to vote, to work, to represent others in government. And the rights we still fight for – rights to make decisions for our bodies that are unrestricted by taxes on female hygiene products, abortion laws or FGM practices. It is our responsibility not only today, but every day – to ensure we work to maintain our rights and that they are given to women all over the world.

As a Muslim woman, IWD means reflecting not on the turbulence of the past year but also on the greater history of Muslim women throughout time and the skills and qualities our role models have pursued and possessed in order to persevere. Muslim women are the visible targets for increasing islamophobia and angry outlets of ignorance and fear. Muslim women are required to navigate not only the cultural stigma of being female in whatever country she is from, but also the social stigma that is increasingly pervasive in our globalised society in its many forms online, on the street and in government policies. Muslim women navigate the patriarchal interpretations of the Quran to understand and abide by the rights afforded to them in Islam in the face of ‘well-intentioned’ men and sometimes women who feel a responsibility to subjugate them under the guise of religious instruction. Muslim women navigate the social stigma attached to their dress code and resist the western hegemony that believes it has the right to dictate what women should wear and how they should act. Campaigns, events and even trending twitter hashtags such as the #dearsister hashtag are crucial to enlightening and empowering Muslim women through the sharing of knowledge to dispel the fear that comes from ignorance.

As an Australian woman, IWD is a time to reflect on the prevalence and severity of violence against women in Australia. On average at least one woman a week is killed by a partner or former partner in Australia. One in three Australian women has experienced physical violence since the age of 15. One in five Australian women has experienced sexual violence. One in four Australian women has experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner. One in four Australian women has experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner. Women are five times more likely than men to require medical attention or hospitalisation as a result of intimate partner violence, and five times more likely to report fearing for their lives. Of those women who experience violence, more than half have children in their care. Eight out of ten women aged 18 to 24 were harassed on the street in the past year. Domestic or family violence against women is the single largest driver of homelessness for women, a common factor in child protection notifications and results in a police call-out on average once every two minutes across the country. The combined health, administration and social welfare costs of violence against women have been estimated to be $21.7 billion a year, with projections suggesting that if no further action is taken to prevent violence against women, costs will accumulate to $323.4 billion over a thirty-year period from 2015 to 2045.

Australia – we have a moral and ethical responsibility to ourselves and our society to be better. To do better. Violence against women in any form is unacceptable, and the growing evidence that women with disabilities are more likely to experience violence and that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience both far higher rates and more severe forms of violence compared to other women is a sad testament to the state of our society. We must urge our government to take action and put in place measures to ensure Australia turns back from this alarming growth and stays on track to becoming a safer and healthier environment for women of all ages, ethnicities and abilities.

As a woman of Bangladeshi heritage, IWD is a time to celebrate the achievements of great women my country has produced such as Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, a Bengali writer, educationist, social activist, and advocate of women’s rights who was and is considered the pioneer feminist of Bengal. It is also a time to reflect on the continuance of child marriages, the giving and taking of dowry, domestic violence, rape, acid attacks and sexual harassment. From the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich, women in every strata of Bengali society whether at home or abroad face challenges as a result of being a woman. A working women, a thinking woman. According to a recent PwC report, Bangladesh’s economy is likely to grow at the fastest rate after Vietnam and India in the next 34 years. Let’s work to ensure our attention to developing security, education and rights for women grows at a greater pace.

International Women’s Day has been occurring for well over a century – and continues to grow from strength to strength. For International Women’s Day 2017, we’re asking you to #BeBoldForChange. Call on the masses, call on yourself and help forge a better working world. A more inclusive, gender equal world where every girl and every woman has the freedom to try, aspire and achieve.

Happy International Women’s day 2017!

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