Choosing to Challenge – Jennifer Oaten
The first International Women’s Day was held in 1911 when more than one million women and men attended rallies in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. Women demanded the right to vote and hold public office, the right to work and receive training, and an end to discrimination against women. Today’s situation is much improved, yet we still have a long way to go to equality.
The theme for IWD 2021 is “Choose to Challenge.”
As a school, how do we equip young women for the challenges they may face in their lives?
We develop skills to overcome adversity
Encouraging girls to be involved in or finding their area of passion, whether it be music, maths, technology, art, or sport, enables them to develop positive self-esteem and feel valued. It enables them to feel a sense of belonging and connection. This important foundation will give our girls the strength and confidence to work through challenges.
Our Mental Health Strategy has enabled us to identify and focus on developing knowledge, such as understanding our emotions and knowing it is ok to feel sad or angry. These feelings are normal for short periods. Skills such as problem-solving can help find solutions to problems. Belonging to a community and feeling a sense of connection enable students to have a support network of friends, family, and staff to reach out to in times of need.
We develop brave girls
Our Year 5s complete a program called Fearless5, which involves seeing famous fails and how these individuals learned and grew from mistakes. It is a great project that develops young students to have a go, not be afraid to make mistakes, and resilient when things go wrong.
Student leadership also encourages our girls to be brave. The Student Leadership Council very capably ran the IWD Assembly and did so with such ease and confidence.
Our community service opportunities encourage girls to be brave, face situations out of their comfort zone, and require them to use their initiative to solve problems. Through service, they can listen and see how they can make a difference in other’s lives.
Partnering with parents to build resilience in our girls is crucial to develop brave girls. No more delivering lunchboxes or laptops; there are other outcomes that the girls can determine with support. A few weeks ago, 16 current students and 17 Alumni swam the Rottnest swim. What a great example of brave young women!
We empower girls to have a voice
Debating and public speaking require students to have a voice. We want girls to speak-up with confidence and have their opinions and ideas heard and valued. Girls need to believe that they have a valuable contribution, especially with representing vulnerable populations.
We also have a health program to assist our students in knowing and understanding what acceptable behaviour of others is and what is not, and that they have a right to be heard. We all have a voice, we can all speak up, and we can all make a difference in other women’s lives if we can help them speak up.
We need to continue to provide opportunities for girls to speak out about injustice or when they see, hear, or are subjected to behaviours from others they see as a result of gender.
We promote non-traditional careers
Women should have choices. There should be no male careers or female careers, just careers where all are considered equal. We need to ensure our girls believe this and promote the great diversity of careers, whether it be neurosurgery, playing AFLW with the Eagles or cybersecurity, all are viable options. I want our girls to believe anything is possible.
We celebrate our alumni stories, successes, and challenges, such as Ciara Duffy, who has been researching the impact of honey bee venom on breast cancer. She spoke at our Achiever’s Assembly, while Sandy Anghie, Deputy Lord Mayor of Perth, spoke at our IWD Assembly. Both are inspiring alumni and great role models.
We expose our girls to varied pathways to success, not just university pathways but also TAFE and gap years. We have identified a need for more promotion of trades, as these are excellent career pathways for girls. Success is not just a university degree; it may be a job; it may be motherhood, voluntary work, or caring for a family member. Everyone’s life journey is different.
Females and males need to unite to demonstrate shared ownership because gender equality belongs to us all, not just females or particular organisations but all community members who care about human rights. Men can play a crucial role in this change; they need to stand up and be advocates and champions to accelerate women’s equality significantly.
I hope for a school and a world where every girl; can overcome adversity, be brave to take on challenges, speak out about injustices, and have a career in her chosen field.