Headmasters Blog

International Women's Day 2020

On Sunday 8 March, communities around the globe celebrate International Women's Day. This year's theme, #EachForEqual, explores the idea that an equal world is an enabled world and is aimed at creating a more balanced world where everyone has a part to play, all the time, everywhere.

International Women's Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day when women are recognised for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political.

International Women's Day has roots dating back to 1917 when women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia. March 8 became a national holiday and was celebrated 1940s-raymond-eric-hepworth-osc1944-with-his-mother-margaret-hepworth-city-of-perth-1955.jpgpredominantly by the socialist movement and communist countries until the United Nations adopted it in 1975. The rest, as they say, is history.

Since those early years, International Women's Day has assumed a new global dimension for women in developed and developing countries alike. The growing international women's movement, which has been strengthened by four global United Nations women's conferences, has helped make the commemoration a rallying point to build support for women's rights and participation in the political and economic arenas.

The Charter of the United Nations, signed in 1945, was the first international agreement to affirm the principle of equality between women and men. Since then, the UN has helped create a historic legacy of internationally agreed strategies, standards, programmes and goals to advance the status of women worldwide.

Over the years, the UN and its technical agencies have promoted the participation of women as equal partners with men in achieving sustainable development, peace, security, and full respect for human rights. The empowerment of women continues to be a central feature of the UN's efforts to address social, economic and political challenges across the globe.

Regarding the importance of both recognising and celebrating this day, the International Women's' Development Agency (www.iwda.org.au) has this to say about why we need an International Women's Day:

1950s-photograph-of-tom-stacey-osc1959-and-teacher-mrs-seacombe_1569.jpgWhy does International Women's Day matter?

Because we're not there yet.

IWD is a day to recognise how far we've come towards gender equality, and also how far we have left to go. Back in 1911, only eight countries allowed women to vote, equal pay for equal work was unheard of – if women were allowed to work at all – and reproductive rights were non-existent.

We have come a long way. Whereas once women couldn't vote, we're now leading countries. While we once faced restrictions on where we worked, we're now running corporations. In countries such as Australia we have rights our grandmothers could only have dreamed about, but we still don't have complete equality. And the majority of the world's women aren't anywhere near as close to that goal as we are.

More than 100 years ago, that first march was about ending harmful workplace conditions, equal rights, equal pay, and an end to exploitation. And sadly, those aims are still relevant today.

Because the rights we have are not secure.

Progress should be linear, but it's too often accompanied by a step back. Sometimes, even once laws and rights are established, they are ignored anyway. For example:

Despite domestic violence laws, public awareness and access to legal protections, Australian men are still killing women partners or exes at the rate of  one a week .

Reproductive rights are a political football. Here in Australia access varies by state, and in some parts of the United States  laws have passed  making terminations inaccessible, no matter the reason behind the woman's decision.

Climate change is increasing violence against women and girls, according to a  major report  in 2020. Case studies included domestic abuse, human trafficking, sexual assault, and violence against women environmental rights defenders.

 IWD is a once-a-year chance to remind governments, businesses and everyone else watching that women aren't going anywhere, and we're prepared to take action to achieve our human rights.

Because progress hasn't been equal.

Some women feel they have not encountered discrimination or harassment, or faced systemic barriers to their success, but that's not the experience of all women. IWD is an opportunity to acknowledge the compounded challenges faced by women of colour, women with disabilities, and queer or trans women, and stand in partnership with them.

It's also a show of solidarity with our sisters living in countries who may not be able to march out of fear for their safety.

On International Women's Day we remember that as long as one woman faces discrimination, harassment, inequality or oppression, we all do.img_0863.jpg

Because sometimes we need to remember we're not alone.

Between personal experience and public headlines, it can feel like we're not getting any closer to gender equality, or that it's too overwhelming (and exhausting) to keep challenging social norms. Maybe we're just tired of fighting the same fight. IWD is a great way to get re-inspired or re-energised, or to remind ourselves there are millions of women out there standing with us, and we're all facing – and winning – the same battles.

My friend needs convincing, gimme some numbers

  • 87,000  women are killed every year just because they are women. Of those, 50,000 are killed by their male partners or family members – and those are only the deaths we know about
  • 111  countries have no repercussions for husbands who rape their wife
  • 7  billion women are legally restricted from having the same choice of jobs as men
  • 14%  is the size of Australia's gender pay gap
  • 45  countries do not have specific laws against domestic violence
  • 35%  of women globally have experienced sexual or physical violence

img_3544.jpegOur College's Perspective

On this very important day, let us remember all the women who have inspired each of us, whether professionally or personally. As an Independent Boys' school, we have a duty to ensure our young boys and men appreciate the role women play in their lives and the wider society. As the 2020 slogan rightly highlights 'An equal world is an enabled world'.

At Scotch College, we believe a balanced world is a better world, hence a balanced school staff. Women teachers (total females: 94, percentage: 53%) and non-teachers (total females: 92, percentage: 49%) play a significant role in the growth and development of our boys. Of course, the most significant role played by women in the life of our boys is by their mums and in many cases their grandmas. We thank them for the marvellous contribution they make to their sons, families and the wider community.

As a male leader of an Independent Boys' School in Western Australia, let me simply say this; my greatest career break was presented to me by a female Principal and throughout my career I have had four outstanding female leaders whose charisms and role modelling remains with me today and will do for many years to come.

I hope we all get time to celebrate International Women's Day and reflect on the role women have and will continue to play in our lives.

Finally, on Sunday 23 February more than a thousand family members, friends and strangers held a public memorial to remember Hannah Clarke, a 31-year-old mother as a beautiful, strong woman, and her children Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4 and Trey, 3, as happy and joyful, but who died as the result of gross violence towards women.

May they all rest in peace. We pray that days such as International Women's Day continue to advocate that such unacceptable shows of violence become history, and not remain as common place and acceptable within the psyche of some males.

Dr Alec O'Connell FACE, FAIM, FNAAUC

As Scotch College's 7th Headmaster, I focus on preparing boys for life through focusing on values and cultural alignment.

I am a passionate educator focussed on student and community engagement. My goal as a Headmaster is to graduate future thought leaders who are prepared for life after school.


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