Strong Women: Jennifer Oaten

Strong, capable yet compassionate young women. That is how I would describe our Year 12 Student Leadership Council who were a fine example for younger students at our assembly for International Women’s Day.

These leaders spoke passionately about ‘Each for Equal’ the theme for International Women’s Day. Through music, a monologue and through photos and video, our student leaders reflected on how we can work collectively to create a gender-equal world.

Every girl, through her individual actions, conversations, behaviours and mindsets was encouraged to challenge stereotypes, broaden perceptions, and most importantly celebrate the achievements of their fellow women.

Lucy Stronach from the Class of 2013, recently completed a Bachelor of Criminology majoring in Criminal Behaviour and Legal Studies. Prior to that, she graduated from a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Criminology and Security, Terrorism & Counter-Terrorism Studies at Murdoch University. At the assembly she shared her story with our College community

Lucy has lived and studied overseas in the USA, Vietnam, India, Singapore, Thailand and Sri Lanka. She has worked with the WA Police, State Parliament, at prisons and detention centres, with the United Nations and with the Family Court system.

Lucy is passionate about equality and working to challenge stereotypes. She was another example of a strong, capable yet compassionate young woman.

The following statements are some of the highlights from Lucy’s speech which inspired us all:

“Equality to me is being respected, acknowledged and imagined in the same light as a man, without a second thought, or comment, or doubt from anyone.“

“We represent the most educated, connected, passionate and motivated group of young people to ever walk this earth. You literally have the tools to change the world: an education, opinions and a voice. Some of the most inspirational women I’ve met were the ones who, in the face of immense adversity, used these tools to make real change in their communities.”

“It can be really daunting, trying to change the world, at any age. But I’ve seen people, of every age and background, make little changes in their community that have a ripple effect. Before you know it, the small changes you’ve made have spread far and wide, and that is how we change the world.”

“Don’t see other women as competition. You do not have to tear them down to build yourself up. In fact, their achievements are your achievements. Individually, we have power, but collectively we have impact.”

Catherine McAuley is another wonderful example of a strong, capable yet compassionate woman.

So what do all these strong women have in common?

I believe a strong woman is one who:

  • follows her own dreams and is not limited by stereotypes, traditions or boundaries as to what she can achieve as a woman.
  • is authentic, true to herself and her values and lets her faith guide her every step.
  • is brave, will face challenges, tackles new or different things, pushes past fear, by trusting in herself.
  • is a thinker who has a considered opinion and shares it thoughtfully.
  • stands up for others, particularly other women.
  • reaches back to help other women succeed and celebrates their achievements.
  • is independent, but knows when to ask for help from friends, family and mentors without fear of being judged.
  • is physically fit, values exercise and her wellbeing.
  • doesn’t lean on others for financial support.
  • sees kindness as a strength not a weakness and demonstrates self-compassion
So how do we create strong women at Santa Maria College?
  • Many leadership roles are available to students, 16 in each year group with many females in College Leadership roles who act as mentors to these leaders.
  • Exposure to alumni who have travelled different journeys, experienced different careers and been brave.
  • Service enables our girls to step out of their comfort zone and confront issues, such as homelessness, which develops strength yet also compassion.
  • Empowering girls to express an opinion through public speaking, writing and debating.
  • Student voice is valued. Students are often involved in planning and decision making.
  • Encouraging students to problem solve for themselves.
  • Valuing risk-taking in learning and being prepared to try new and different things.
  • Trust in our girls and a belief they will succeed in what they choose to do.

Let us all work together, both men and women, for a more equal society where all women, regardless of faith, culture, education or career choices, are equally valued.

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