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It’s not just Australia

Joanna Hayter, IWDA Executive Director

Joanna Hayter, IWDA Executive Director

In the past few days, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s groundbreaking speech about sexism in politics surpassed two million views on YouTube and prompted the Macquarie Dictionary to update its definition of misogyny.

Six days ago a young Indian woman was televised thanking our Prime Minister for being a role model of leadership in tackling sexism. The Indian media’s earliest questions to Julia Gillard did not focus on trade agreements or security but rather, her very direct, public challenge to sexism in parliamentary spaces and political discourse more generally.

Fifteen days ago in the Solomon Islands the Supreme Court confirmed that the notion that wives were subservient to their husbands “must be confined to the grave”, and that the common law principle that exempted rape within marriage from legal sanction was no longer the law in the Solomon Islands.

Twenty-nine days ago the United States launched the “Equal Futures Partnership” between 13 nations (including Australia) to drive equality in public life and legal, regulatory and policy reforms to ensure inclusive economic growth. It strongly reaffirms the promotion and protection of women’s rights and fundamental freedoms as a core global priority.

Thirty-three days ago the Guardian Weekly ran a page three story titled “Women are creating harmony but only men broker peace deals” which described the absence of women from official peace-keeping as a waste of powerful resources, stating that peace deals that do not incorporate women’s perspectives and contributions are seriously flawed.

Fifty-four days ago the Australian Government announced the ten-year “Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development Initiative” at the Pacific Islands Forum, premised on the fact that nations thrive when women can participate in politics, business and society as equals.

Eighty days ago three women entered Parliament in Papua New Guinea, the highest number in that country’s history.

One hundred days ago a groundbreaking global family planning summit held in London committed to support the rights of an additional 120 million women and girls in the world’s poorest countries to plan the number and timing of their children and to access the contraceptive information, services and supplies that makes this possible, without coercion or discrimination, by 2020.

Now we’re talking! How glorious to be a driver and an advocate as these game-changing moments all line up. This is exactly what IWDA, the International Women’s Development Agency, is all about. Established 27 years ago, we continue to stand proudly as the only non-government feminist development agency in this country. Led by women, governed by women, implemented by women—our priorities for a sustainable world are hitting the mark. And it’s not just about greater opportunities and numbers; it’s about feminising processes, structures and priorities until we see both men and women participating and benefiting equally in all societies and in all decisions regarding the future development of all nations.

If you share our view that economic justice and sustainability requires independence, choice and control for women over where and how money is spent, and valuing women’s reproductive as well as their productive contributions…

If you think that violence against women is an abomination and it’s time women were at the table in relation to peace and security and conflict prevention and resolution, local or global

If you think it’s time that women, and the girls after them, should have an open door to civil society leadership roles and equal political representation…

And if you believe that promoting women’s right to make decisions about the utilisation and management of natural resources will bring more sustainable livelihoods for all, given their critical role in food security and sustaining natural ecosystems…

Then join us. Support us. Enable us. Invest in us. As we edge closer to ecological crisis, incremental change is not enough. The only solution is to accelerate and expand on the current momentum bringing women’s perspectives and priorities into decisions in homes, companies, parliaments, courts, security forces, and regional and global fora.

Yes, it’s about health and education outcomes too, but it’s too simplistic to think improved access to services or basic rights will change the world. It won’t. Equal citizenship requires tackling the structures and institutions that set the agenda and determine who has decision-making power. Real economics understands and takes into account the contributions, needs, life courses, priorities and rights of both men and women, and the value of reproductive as well as productive work. Real security is premised on understanding the links between poverty, economics and violence.

Yes, it’s feminism. Yes, it’s gender justice. I firmly believe that women’s rights and gender equality are the key to global survival.

All our programs, whether in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste, Cambodia, Solomon Islands or along the Thai Burma border, are promoting changes to attitudes, cultural practices, laws or governance arrangements that limit women’s rights. We turn a simple dollar into a collective expression of commitment to long-term relationships with organisations in developing nations that do so much with so little. We offer meaningful alternatives to the consumer frenzy of Christmas and the end of year season of gifting, alternatives that demonstrate love and respect.

But my intention is not just to raise funds. My intention is simply to let you know that organisations like ours are here, now, supporting change—providing a link between concern, outrage, determination and action in an international space.

Joanna Hayter can be reached via email on and on Twitter: @IWDAExec.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012 under Front page, Recent.

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