Cracking the Code: Innovation for a Gender-Equal Future – Jennifer Oaten

Catherine McAuley was ahead of her time when she fought for the education and empowerment of women in 1827, paving the way for communities like Santa Maria College in 2023. Catherine recognised the unique and significant contribution that women could make towards a more just society and wanted to equip them with the tools to do so. She was passionate about helping those who needed it most, believing that education was the most effective way of empowering them.

This enduring mission we share here at Santa Maria College today. Our mission is – Educating young Mercy women who act with courage and compassion to enrich our world.

We need to educate our students so they can be informed, speak up for themselves, and, most importantly to advocate for others.

We often hear stories of inspiring, brilliant women who appear to have it all on International Women’s Day, so it is easy to forget that it began as a fight for the rights of ordinary women all around the world in 1911. Women demanded the right to vote, hold public office, work and receive training, and end discrimination against women.

International Women’s Day is an annual day of recognition, honouring the progress we have made towards achieving gender equality and a reminder that we need to continue this journey. It is a day to celebrate the achievements of women, past and present while striving to reach true equality. The day is also an important reminder to us of the power of resilience, courage and perseverance of women throughout history. Many women before us have shown great courage and determination to lead change in their countries and their communities.

It is also a day to stand in solidarity with those who may not be able to speak out for fear of their safety, as well as all women who experience compounded challenges

What are the challenges

While we may have made significant changes in gender equality, the reality is that much more progress is needed. These statistics demonstrate this all too well:

  • 47,000 women and girls globally were killed by their male partners or family members in 2020 – and these are only the deaths known. 
  • 47 countries still have no repercussions for husbands who rape their wives.
  • 2.7 billion women are legally restricted from having the same choice of jobs as men.
  • 13.3% is the size of Australia’s gender pay gap.
  • 45 countries do not have specific laws against domestic violence.
  • 30% of women globally have experienced sexual or physical violence in their lifetime.

These numbers paint a disturbing picture of what life looks like for far too many women around the world who experience inequality, discrimination, exploitation, and abuse as part of their everyday lives – even here in Australia – when it should not be tolerated at all.

International Women’s Day 2023 is centred around the theme of “Cracking the Code: Innovation for a Gender-Equal Future”. This theme was chosen to emphasise the importance of bold, creative and innovative solutions for achieving gender equality. It also serves as a call to action for individuals and organisations to work together in order to create a more inclusive and equitable future. The theme highlights the need for collaboration between different sectors, such as technology, business, education and government, in order to drive progress towards gender equality. By working together towards this goal, we can ensure that everyone has access to equal opportunities and resources regardless of their gender.

Lucy Stronach (Class of 2013)

At our International Women’s Day Assembly, led by our Student Leadership Council (SLC), Head Girl Nishi and Deputy Head Girl Lily interviewed Lucy Stronach (Class of 2013) about her work in gender equity and explored how we can all contribute to making a difference for women around the world. Lucy shared the work she has been involved in with the United Nations, helping to promote change globally. She is a wonderful example of taking action both through voluntary and work roles.

The SLC also shared a video of a number of key staff interviewed about their interpretation and application of embracing equity within different areas of the College. They gave tangible examples of how they are making a difference in their classrooms and with the co-curricular activities.

5 ways students can help

I encourage every Santa Maria student:

  1. To inspire and lift others up, encouraging other women to shine. To help others to be their best self. They must ensure the words and actions they choose help others to grow and thrive. Girls need to surround themselves with others who inspire them to be brave, have a go, and reach for the stars.
  2. To speak up and call out behaviour if they witness discrimination or harassment against women. Call out friends and family members, males, and females, who don’t demonstrate equality. Have high expectations and be a voice holding others to account. What we don’t call out, we accept. It is not an easy thing to do. It takes much courage but speaking up is the first step towards the equality we seek. Women can challenge bias and stereotypes by advocating for gender equality and a more inclusive world. Having a voice for themselves but also for others is crucial.
  3. To take the time to understand others as a person and what makes them unique. Be compassionate, be inclusive and avoid making assumptions; you never really know what is going on in another person’s life. We need to listen and hear the challenges other women face both in our own community and beyond.
  4. To advocate for policies that support other women, such as equal pay. Understand what policies political parties support and determine who best represents their view.
  5. To raise awareness, volunteer their time, or donate goods to organisations that support women’s causes, such as domestic violence shelters, health clinics, or those providing career training.

Gender equality is an important issue that affects us all. We must come together to break stereotypes and discrimination and strive for equal opportunities in work and life. Everyone has a role to play in pushing for change, from women to men advocating for positive change. Our goal is a world free from violence and discrimination, where girls can have an education, career of choice, access to leadership roles and equitable wages.

Let’s work together to create a better future for all women.

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