International Women’s Day (IWD) sees us assess what is needed to achieve gender equality

Opinion piece first published in The Advertiser

TODAY, on International Women’s Day (IWD), we celebrate gains made in women’s rights and assess how much we still need to do to achieve gender equality.

Adelaide has the biggest IWD breakfast planned in Australia, but events take place all over the nation from fun-runs to knitting circles (seriously).

This year, expect a significant day of celebration and protest in the United States.

Already, we have seen worldwide demonstrations against President Trump’s views of women and damning reaction to his executive order reinstating the “global gag” on overseas discussion of abortion by individuals and organisations receiving US federal funding.

But no one country has got gender equality right.

On Wednesday, women in Australia will wake up to a persistent gender pay gap (23.1 per cent), fewer women in positions of power compared to men, and with violence a scourge that affects one in three women over 15 years of age.

Our country, like many, is making progress, but it is anticipated that we will not achieve equality globally until 2186.

Indian youths perform a show in Hyderabad to promote awareness of sexual exploitation.

Indian youths perform a show in Hyderabad to promote awareness of sexual exploitation.

Women worldwide are more likely to experience violence and abuse. They are more likely to be economically dependent, and work in vulnerable, low-paid and undervalued jobs.

Women and children are more likely to bear the cost of water, food and fuel insecurity.

And, women and children are more likely to die as a result of natural disasters.

The McKinsey Global Institute notes if each country matched the progress towards gender parity of its fastest-moving regional neighbour, global GDP could increase by up to US$12 trillion ($15.8 trillion), or 11 per cent, in 2025.

Realising this potential begins with the full and equal access to education for girls.

More than 65 million girls are out of school, yet an extra year of education boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 per cent. Girls’ schooling is “the closest thing to a silver bullet in human development”.

One of the most heinous manifestations of gender inequality is violence.

Globally, more than one in three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or abused in some way.

Every 10 minutes, somewhere in the world, an adolescent girl dies as a result of violence.

Child marriage affects about 14 million girls every year, and pregnancy remains the leading cause of death for women aged 15 to 19 living in developing countries.

A girl in South Sudan is more likely to die in childbirth than finish primary school.

We need more women leadership, not only because it is fair, but it changes perceptions about girls’ roles and aspirations (including reducing the time girls spend on household chores), and sees more girls attending school and becoming equipped to be leaders themselves.

IWD is a chance to celebrate women and recognises that the issues facing women and girls remain one of our greatest human rights challenges.

It’s something worth remembering every day of the year.

The Lowy Insitute Address: 'Are We There Yet'

'On 6 December, Natasha Stott Despoja AM, Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, looked at destinations reached and travels still to be undertaken in the global journey towards gender equality. At the conclusion of her three year term as one of Australia’s key international advocates for gender equality, Ms Stott Despoja reflected on the progress on the global goal of gender equality. Drawing from her visits to 31 countries to promote Australia’s programs and policies to advance women’s empowerment, and her representation of Australia at 29 multilateral and regional gender equality conferences, Ambassador Stott Despoja provided insights into progress towards “Planet 50:50”.'