I love being a woman! Embracing my femininity is the hallmark of my individuality, and my access to education, capacity to run a business, care for those of my choosing, and exercise my equal rights is wonderful! Since the beginning of time, society has had expectations about women. Women expected to cook, clean, serve men, bear and raise children, and to nurture the family. Super women! Over time, some women have rejected the stereotypical roles and responsibilities and sought equality, negotiation of roles and responsibilities according to strengths. Modern women have stood up for their right to access equal pay, hold high profile leadership positions, the right to safety, and to have a voice in a male dominated world. To all those women who have lobbied for our human and equal rights, we salute you and thank you!
You may have heard it is International Women's Day on Sunday, 8 March 2020. The slogan spells clearly ''An equal world is an enabled world!'' Within every gender, race, and ability we strive for equality, for a voice, access, and recognition for our clients as human service workers. However, throughout history women have been considered vulnerable. Is this due to patriarchal attitudes held by institutions, governments, communities, the fact that many women may be smaller in size and stature, and bear children? At the end of the day, the culture of male privilege runs deep. Women fought successfully for the right to vote, for maternity leave, for positions traditionally only awarded to men such as CEO. Society still seems to expect women to juggle children, housekeeping, career and relationships whilst access to affordable childcare wanes. Yet women have survived and thrived for centuries by supporting and understanding each other. We have come a long way as a Western society to support women's rights.
However, we still have work to do to uphold women's safety. Sadly, pregnant women are the highest target for men who use violence, coercion or control. The effects of domestic violence during pregnancy include complications in labour, premature delivery, a higher incidence of neonatal death, underweight babies and miscarriage (Alio et al 2009; Shah and Shah 2010).
It got worse after I was pregnant: he became much more physical, and it was as if being pregnant didn’t make any difference to him. (Lisa).
Whilst they are at their most vulnerable ''with child", some men choose to use power and control over pregnant women. To the majority of decent men who show women love and respect with words and actions - we respect you.
On the income front, women are still paid 12-17.5 per cent less than men in the same roles. Despite the gender pay gap narrowing it has remained stable over the last fifteen years (Graf, N., Brown, A., & Patten, E. (2018). The narrowing, but persistent, gender gap in pay. Pew Research Center, April, 9.) A curious notion when we consider that women can vote, achieve an equal education and do role reversal of stereo-typical roles and responsibilities in the home these days. In my experience of working 20 years in domestic violence, the over-representation of male perpetrated domestic violence is one barrier to women's career success. Being put down, ridiculed, financially and sexually abused does not aid performing at your best level at work.
So it is essential that women have women's rights! They have been fought for over the last 100 years. A benefit of the current neo-liberal policy is funding for small business owners, where women can work on their own terms. Yet, inconsistencies in gender equity glare in our faces. Like the fact that 92% of primary care for children living with a disability is still done by women. Australian women also account for 70% of carers for parents. Why the disparity?
I'll be celebrating International Women's Day at a series of university lectures on the Central Coast at University of Newcastle on Sunday. My interest in women's business has remained keen for the last 20 years. I enjoy supporting women, counselling survivors of domestic violence and women who have come out of adverse childhood experiences. How will you uphold women's rights this International Women's Day and in the year ahead? Shine a light in the dark places, lend a hand to an oppressed woman, stand up for her, call the police if there is domestic violence, teach boys not to bully girls. ''An equal world is an enabled world!'' Let's keep flying the flag for women to access and experience the benefits of their human and equal rights.
Tania Gorry is a counsellor in private practice at Whole Warrior Solutions based on the Central Coast of NSW. Tania has a passion for supporting people living with disabilities, trauma, stress, anxiety, depression and grief and loss.