On 8 March each year, Australians are given the opportunity of hearing about, or hearing from, a number of inspirational women at many events staged across the nation. These women have often experienced great success and/or have made a significant contribution to society; others have faced considerable adversity and, through bravery, perseverance, resilience and sheer grit have not allowed this adversity to destroy them.
One such woman is Munibar Mazari, who was a panelist at the Sydney breakfast hosted by the UN Women National Committee of Australia. Ms Mazari is a Pakistani woman who was abandoned by her husband and father following a car accident that left her paralysed from the waist down. Despite barely being able to move her hands, she taught herself to paint, and she now works as an artist and a writer. Additionally, Ms Mazari has become the voice for the people of Pakistan on issues of gender inequality and discrimination and she assists children in need to receive an education. Ms Mazari is an exceptionally courageous woman who has not allowed her misfortune to destroy her; instead, she has used it for the good of others.
As an advocate for the UN's Step It Up For Gender Equality, Ms Mazari's statement below encapsulates her positive message that encourages us all to continue to work towards gender equity:
'I am a strong supporter of UN Women and the role we have in ending gender-based discrimination, and working towards gender equality, making it a lived reality. We need to educate both men and women if we want to eliminate gender-based discrimination, and for this we have to work together as one.'
Certainly, much has been achieved by both men and women in terms of gender equality in the 100 years since 8 March 1917, when starving Russian women rose up in anger and frustration in a march for 'Bread and Peace' that purportedly sparked the Russian Revolution. However, the achievements in this area have been quite uneven. For countries like Australia and other western nations, the gains have been significant; in many other nations though, gender discrimination is endemic.
Yet, even in Australia, there is still much work to be done. On Wednesday evening, the ABC reported that only 25% of board directors in the top ASX 200 companies are women. This is definitely an improvement on the 8% figure of 2009. Disappointingly though, some of the companies on this list have no women directors at all. It was noted in the report that if progress continues at the current rate, Australians will have to wait 169 years for the board gender equity gap to close.
For those who have been following the School's Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds this week, you will have been treated to an overview of the determination of Abbotsleigh (from its foundation in 1885) to ensure that all Abbotsleigh girls receive a high-quality education that allows them to develop as strong, courageous and articulate young women who are empowered to take an active and equal role in society. With the right qualifications, our girls should be able to contribute to their careers as equals, and, should they wish to do so, have the equal opportunity to become directors on company boards. We and they should not have to wait 169 years for gender equity to be achieved in the boardroom!
Research undertaken by the United Nations clearly demonstrates how advantageous gender equity is to the economy of nations as well as to each society. It is imperative, therefore, for our girls and for our nation, that we keep working towards this goal, 'together as one.' (Munibar Mazari).
As Robert F. Kennedy famously said:
'There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?'