After International Women’s Day

By Dr Kirsti Abbott, UNE Discovery Program Leader

International Women’s Day 2021 was, once again, a day for heartwarming collegiality and celebration of strong, amazing women. It was also a day of anger, shame and frustration at the slow rate of change, or complete lack of change of the treatment of women around the world, both in the home, at work and in our communities. It was a day of everything in between too, and I was grateful to see and be the beneficiary of the friendship and camaraderie of women in regional NSW.

Whatever IWD2021 meant to you however, it is impossible to ignore the ongoing and frightening stories and statistics that mar the optimism that we are all trying to hold onto; optimism that young girls today will have a safer, more equal and respectful future. I try and remain hopeful this year as after the 8th of March, commentators and analysts across Australia keep the discussion going. Brittany Higgins’ steadfast courage in her speech outside Parliament House, exposing continuing unacceptable behaviour of parliamentarians, models what we all must do, despite headlines suggesting that the current government will never address sexual harassment in the halls of our capital buildings. The Australia Institute provided more specific things that the Prime Minister of Australia could do to address issues impacting women in THIS ARTICLE. If we all stand up and demand these evidence-based changes, maybe our daughters, friends and families can see that improvements can be made.

Several statistics stood out for me this year that highlight the inequalities and injustices that women face.  I don’t intend to open wounds or incite anger, but I do understand that these details can often do that. Read on if you have the strength and tenacity to #choosetochallenge any of the following facts, some of which you can also read more about HERE:

  • 1 in 5 women in Australia, and 1 in 2 women globally, will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime
  • Women around the world are 47% more likely to suffer severe injuries in car crashes because safety features are designed for men
  • 33,000 girls become child brides every day
  • Only 6 countries give women equal legal work rights as men: Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden
  • Women represent only slightly more than 35% of the world’s STEM graduates
  • Women are the minority in scientific research and development, making up less than a third of the world’s researchers

Here at UNE Discovery, we aim to understand the environment we work within, and remain positive as role models of equality, respect and aspiration for all young people. Many of the women in our own team are wonderful examples of curious, creative, collaborative and confident facilitators of play-based experiences. Over the past 4 years the programs, philosophy and people of UNE Discovery have included 21 talented and passionate women responsible for the incredible impact and reach of the Voyager program as well as development of the Boilerhouse Discovery Space project, on and off campus engagement and much much more.

On March the 8th, there were celebrations in our own communities in Armidale that acknowledged women who have worked hard to create thriving communities, businesses, charities, organisations and initiatives. There were high teas, movies, sausage sizzles and more. See the photos for a taste of local events.

This year my greatest hope is not that we chose to challenge something on International Women’s Day, but that we continue to #choosetochallenge all issues that impact women and girls.  I see in young people a desire and tenacity to make change. I hope we can keep this sense of responsibility strong, alive, and supported so that they may inhabit a world where they know they are worthy, respected and equal.


Photos courtesy of UNE Photography Society