8 March 2016
International Women’s Day is an opportunity for us all to reflect and assess just how far women have come in our struggle for equality both here in Australia and abroad.
While progress has been slow and uneven, achieving equality for women and girls is essential. Not merely because it is a matter of fairness and fundamental human rights, but because progress in so many other areas depends on it.
There is a growing body of evidence that demonstrates a strong and consistent association between gender inequality and levels of violence against women. The social, health and economic costs of violence against women are enormous and preventing such violence is a matter of national urgency.
It is not, however, a “women’s problem” – it is a challenge that belongs to our whole community. Late last year, I joined with elected representatives from all three levels of government in Newcastle to say Not In Our Community, pledging that violence against women and children is never OK.
A recently released report called Change the Story details a national evidence-based approach to preventing violence against women and their children. To change the story, we need to recognise that violence against women and their children is preventable - it’s not an inevitable or intractable social problem.
There are five essential actions needed to address the gendered drivers of violence against women. We need to: challenge condoning of violence against women; promote women’s independence and decision-making; challenge gender stereotypes and roles; strengthen positive, equal and respectful relationships; and, promote and normalise gender equality.
It’s time to redouble our efforts to address inequality – it starts here in Newcastle.
This opinion piece was first published in the Newcastle Herald on Tuesday, 8 March 2016.