Helping women ‘press for progress’
Australian High Commissioner to Samoa
Today, on 8 March, we celebrate International Women’s Day.
It is a day to celebrate the achievements and successes of women around the globe. It also an opportunity to reflect on the challenges faced by women in our society and to consider how we can address these challenges.
International Women’s Day is a chance to motivate our friends, families and communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.
All women deserve the right to live free from violence, participate fully in economic and social activities and political and decision-making processes.
The global theme for International Women’s Day 2018 - Press for Progress - is right for our time and it belongs to all of us.
Gender equality and women’s empowerment is a key part of Australia’s foreign policy, economic diplomacy and development work.
Two years ago, Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop launched the Australian Government’s Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Strategy and this priority focus on gender equality was enshrined in our 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper.
These strategies place gender equality and women’s empowerment centrally in Australia’s foreign policy, economic diplomacy and development efforts and outline three priorities for our work on these issues:
-enhancing women’s voice in decision-making, leadership and peace-building;
-promoting women’s economic empowerment; and
-ending violence against women and girls.
In foreign policy, Australia is committed to pursuing opportunities for ambitious gender equality outcomes in regional and multilateral frameworks, and raising gender equality as a priority topic in international meetings.
This year, Australia commenced its term on the Human Rights Council, which we will use as a platform from which to advance the rights of women and girls.
In our development programme, we are helping women to press for progress and to have their voices heard in economic, social and political settings.
Last year, the Australian-funded Samoa Women Shaping Development Program, through the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development, helped 405 unemployed women access basic financial literacy training provided. Through the training, they were able to access micro-credit schemes and 319 women were able to establish their own businesses.
Samoa Women Shaping Development also supported a program by the Women in Leadership Advocacy group (WinLA) for women at the mid-management level in the public and private sector to receive mentoring and training from influential female leaders.
Samoa Women Shaping Development has helped address gender-based violence by supporting consultations with church ministers, facilitated by the National Council of Churches, which has led to the establishment of a national gender-based violence taskforce.
We are also proud to support Samoan women in the private and public sector through our Australia Awards scholarships program, which funds tertiary study at Australian and regional institutions. Over the past five years, more than half of our Australia Awardees are women.
Gender equality is central to economic and human development and Australia is steadfast in its commitment to be at the forefront of efforts to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.
Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, Dr Sharman Stone, whose roles is to raise awareness and action on issues affecting women globally, said of Australia’s seat on the Human Rights Council, that 2018 is a ‘special year for Australia. But we think it’s a special year for our region and we hope to make sure that every woman and girl has every opportunity and is never experiencing disadvantage simply because they were born a girl.’