Wednesday, March 7, 2012

International Women's Day - a celebration of equality

Selene - detail

It is hard for me to comprehend I was born into a world where women employed in the public service were, when married, forced to leave their employment, career, in some cases their life's work to tend to their new role as home keeper and bearer of children. It wasn't until 1966 in Australia when this Dickensian form of legislated discrimination against women was removed. 

Somewhat auspiciously by contrast in 1902 Australia became the first country in the world to allow (white) women to vote and to stand for public office. (New Zealand awarded the vote to women in 1893 though not the right to office until much later) In my home state of Victoria women won the right to vote last (1908) in Australia and of all her compatriots was last again to be awarded the right to stand for office (1923).
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics

Edith Cowan,
the first Australian standing member of Parliament, 1920-1924, Western Australia, suffered public taunts of neglecting her husband and children when campaigning to reach office. Cowan was 59 at the time and her youngest child an adult (really, when you think about it, what has changed?). She championed women's rights and won some impressive battles in her short time in office. Women could exercise a career in the legal profession and sex education was introduced to the school curriculum.

This makes me think what have I done to honour the women who have gone before me to make my life and my value in society more equal than they enjoyed. They had so many roadblocks to advancing their education, social status and yet they persisted and persisted and some of them won so I could live and enjoy the equality they fought for. Which does not mean it is correct to taint these hard won gains and have women's rights issues distorted to exclude men or used as an excuse for cultural and religious practices which distinguish women as inferior rather than equal before all society.

I have no daughters, though I hope I can help influence the daughters of others to hold tight to these hard won social gains. They did not come easy, they did not come free and they are fragile. Freedoms and equalities are not awarded without a fight and when won they must be constantly tended and cherished.

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About Leeanneart

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Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
We are first and foremost human with a responsibility to the humanity within us and not to any faith, political, apolitical, social or societal group, union or faction. We are responsible for our own reputation, and for what deeds we do and what achievements or otherwise in life we enjoy. The rest is nonsense.