If you’re anything like me, your mobile was probably chiming earlier this week as people wished you happy International Women’s Day (IWD) via text, email, across social media and so on. And while I replied politely to everyone who reached out, I can’t help but feel uncomfortable, on some level, by the thought of celebrating womanhood on one day of the year.
Should I really be left smiling by the thought that we deliberately shine a light on the achievements of women everywhere for one whole day? Fact is, we can have as many IWD breakfasts and pop as many champagne bottles as we’d like to but it’s been a bumpy period for gender equality, in Australia and around the world, for anyone who’s been paying attention.
And while I replied politely to everyone who reached out, I can’t help but feel uncomfortable, on some level, by the thought of celebrating womanhood on one day of the year.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been moments recently that have made me feel like I’m on top of the world and as though there’s never been a better time to be a woman. At home, there’s the emergence of the AFL Women's League, something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. This hits especially close to home because as a kid, while it seemed to provide everyone else around me with endless laughter and amusement, I was determined to become the first female AFL footballer. To see AFLW showcased on commercial TV in prime time, complete with winning ratings and sold out crowds, makes me feel as though we’re getting somewhere, at least in terms of women in sport in Australia anyway.
That said, who can write a piece like this one without mentioning some of the crushing blows feminism has experienced recently? The most obvious being Donald Trump’s rise to power, despite public examples of seemingly sexist behaviour. What I would give to have the words “Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything,” wiped from my memory forever. Meanwhile, elsewhere throughout the world, we need to recall the Russian MPs vote to win back domestic violence protections or perhaps, a Polish politician’s views on why women must earn less than men.
So what makes all these gender equality regressions resonate just that little bit more in my mind? While I remain bitter about ‘the small things’ that haunt my past like being told by a female boss to ‘wear my handbag in a certain way so that I don’t look like I’m straight out of uni,’ it’s the issues we’re not talking about or paying attention to that in my opinion, really twists the knife into the gender-equality wound. Like the women and girls who are among the 20 million people whose lives are at risk due to the looming famine in Somalia, Nigeria, Sudan and Yemen. We know that women and children are disproportionately impacted by famine as often, women take on responsibility as primary caretakers of their family. Even at the expense of their own health and wellbeing (despite seemingly being worlds away, this is undoubtedly something that unites us all as women).
We know that women and children are disproportionately impacted by famine as often, women take on responsibility as primary caretakers of their family.
Emergency funding helps to respond to the effects of malnutrition, meet the health and nutrition needs of pregnant and breastfeeding women and their children.
If only one thing is guaranteed in life, it’s that there is always hope, even in the most desperate of times and places. When I look at the situation in the US, I smile when I see how many women and people have come together to fight for the future they want for their kids. When I re-watched that Polish politician’s sexist views, my heart skipped a beat when I saw the response that was hurtled his way by MEP, Iratxe Garcia Perez. And when I look at the situation in Somalia, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen, I acknowledge the bravery and strength of the women struggling to keep their lives together when so many of us would immediately crumble.
The reality is, we have the power to help these people.
Around $5.8 (AUS) billion is needed from the global community by the end of March this year to avert famine (famine has already been officially declared in one part of South Sudan). On 1 March, the Australian Government announced $20 million for food and life-saving support to Somalia and South Sudan. As much as this is a starting point, it’s not enough - Australia needs to at least double this contribution to help these women who continue to battle a situation most of us can only imagine. The humanitarian crisis is urgent and serious. Express your concern by calling on Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to at least double (to $40 million) the Australian contribution to the famine that was announced last week.
This week, IWD week, and every other day of the year, I aim to look outside of my personal situation and acknowledge the challenges that females currently face throughout the world. But most of all, I hope that female-centric stories don't dry up from our daily conversations as the media moves on from IWD to another major news story. Female-related issues must be top of our agenda and discussed every day.
Sarah Cannata works as a media officer at Campaign for Australian Aid.