Celebrate International Women’s Day at The Hub with leading thinkers on women’s rights
On Sunday 12 March Blue Mountains Theatre and Community Hub will host a free afternoon including livestream sessions from the All About Women festival, Rummage and Roam stalls with vintage and pre-loved clothing for sale, live music and a thought-provoking panel discussion featuring three inspiring female leaders.
Cherie Brandon from Blue Mountains Women's Health & Resource Centre (BMWHRC) says it's exciting to be back in partnership with Blue Mountains Theatre and Community Hub and Springwood Neighbourhood Centre to host this important International Women’s Day community event.
“Progressing gender equity is at the very heart of BMWHRC's mission,” Cherie says. “We know that inequality underpins so many issues that continue to negatively impact women, girls and the gender diverse community. This event gives us the opportunity to come together as a community, hear from great speakers from the All About Women festival, as well as our local panel - and connect, celebrate and take real action to progress gender equity locally.”
Following the first livestream from the Sydney Opera House, ‘The War on Women’, there will be a live and local panel discussion featuring: women’s rights advocate Hava Rezaei, a Hazara woman (a minority ethnicity form Afghanistan) who was arrested by the Taliban and forced to flee to Australia with her two children; local high school principal, Emma Le Marquand, a passionate educator and; local activist and disability advocate Sophie Van der Velden.
The IWD 2023 theme is #embraceequity and, to co-founder of Alzara Support Association Hava Rezaei, this means recognising that not everyone has had the same chances or experiences in life and taking steps to fix those differences.
“Embracing equity means being aware of and doing something about the many ways women have been socially and economically disadvantaged and left out in the past,” Hava says. “This could mean working for equal pay for equal work, advocating for policies that support work-life balance and parental leave, and fighting against violence and discrimination based on gender.”
Hava says to her personally it’s important to be aware of one's own privileges and biases and take steps to change them. “It means listening to the stories and points of view of people who have been left out of society in the past and taking steps to help them gain power and equal rights.”
Hava describes the phrase ‘war on women’ as the systematic discrimination and oppression that women face, especially when it comes to their reproductive rights, access to health care, and violence against them because of their gender. In Australia there has been a lot of discussion lately about gender-based violence and harassment and in March 2021 tens of thousands of women took to the streets to protest for systemic changes and more accountability for people who hurt other women.
“The Australian government has announced a number of plans to deal with these problems, …many supporters say that these steps don't go far enough and that deeper cultural changes are needed to fix the problems that lead to unequal treatment of men and women and violence against women,” Hava says.
Blaxland High School principal Emma Le Marquand has raised daughters and knows the value of equity.
“I’ve lived in the mid-mountains for 17 years with my husband, step-daughters and daughter. Achieving equity in access and outcome for our young people means we have dual responsibilities as the adults. Firstly, we have to work actively at removing barriers to opportunities whenever we encounter them. And secondly, we need to help our young people develop the skills to approach the world in ways that maximises their own and everyone else’s access to opportunity,” Emma says.
"In Australia, women's rights and how they are treated have been a source of worry for a long time." Hava Rezaei
Full interview with Hava Rezaei:
Tell me a bit about yourself.
My name is Hava Rezaei. I am a Hazara woman a minority ethnicity form Afghanistan. I have been here for nearly 10 years. I was arrested by Taliban in 2012. My life was in danger and I forsed to flee from Afghanistan with my two children. Before I came to Australia as a refugee, I was the Director of Department of women affairs in Daikundi Province of Afghanistan.
Now I am living in Merrylands NSW and studding Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Law at Macquarie University, and I am working with Alzara Support Association as cofounder.
The theme for IWD this year is Embrace Equity. Can I ask what Embrace Equity means to you? Both personally and as a refugee advocate and as an advocate for women?
Adopting the idea of equity means recognising that not everyone has had the same chances or experiences in life and taking steps to fix those differences. As a refugee advocate, this could mean fighting for policies and programmes that help refugees adjust to a new country and make sure they have access to basic needs like housing, education, safety and health care. It could also mean working to fix problems like discrimination or being shut out of certain job sectors that affect refugees as a whole.
As a supporter of women, embracing equity means being aware of and doing something about the many ways women have been socially and economically disadvantaged and left out in the past. This could mean working for equal pay for equal work, advocating for policies that support work-life balance and parental leave, and fighting against violence and discrimination based on gender.
On a personal level, embracing equity means being aware of one's own privileges and biases and taking steps to change them. It means listening to the stories and points of view of people who have been left out of society in the past and taking steps to help them gain power and equal rights.
How do you think the current ‘war on women’ reveals itself in the Australian context?
The phrase "war on women" refers to the systematic discrimination and oppression that women face, especially when it comes to their reproductive rights, access to health care, and violence against them because of their gender. Even though the phrase is often used to talk about politics in the U.S., the issue of gender inequality and the marginalisation of women is a global problem.
In Australia, women's rights and how they are treated have been a source of worry for a long time. In 2021, there was a lot more talk about gender-based violence and harassment in the country. This was because of a few high-profile incidents and claims of sexual misconduct in the government.
People have said bad things about how the Australian government deals with sexual assault and harassment claims and how it responds to calls for more protection for women. In March 2021, tens of thousands of women in cities across Australia took to the streets to protest against violence and discrimination based on gender. They wanted systemic changes and more accountability for people who hurt other women.
The Australian government has announced a number of plans to deal with these problems, such as a national enquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace, more money for services to help people who have been hurt by domestic violence, and new laws to stop revenge porn and online abuse. But many supporters say that these steps don't go far enough and that deeper cultural changes are needed to fix the problems that lead to unequal treatment of men and women and violence against women.
How are Afghan Australian women you work with impacted by Afghanistan war on women?
Both inside and outside of Afghanistan, the war in Afghanistan has had a big effect on Afghan women. If you work with or know Afghan Australian women, they may have felt or seen the following:
Trauma and loss: Because of the war, many Afghan women have been through trauma and lost loved ones. They might have lost loved ones, friends, or even their homes. Violence and instability that keep going on can also cause long-term psychological damage.
Girls and women were not allowed to go to school in Afghanistan when the Taliban were in power. Even though things have changed in the last 20 years, many Afghan women still don't have easy access to education. This can make it harder for them to get a job and be financially independent.
Access to health care can be hard to get in Afghanistan, especially in the country's rural areas. This can have a big effect on how women and their families feel about their health and well-being.
Violence and discrimination: Afghan women may face violence and discrimination because of their gender, race, or religion. This includes things like domestic violence, forced marriage, and killings for the sake of honour.
Many Afghan women have had to leave their homes because of violence, persecution, or unstable economies. This can make moving to a new place and getting used to a new culture very hard.
It is important to remember that the experiences of Afghan women are varied and complicated, and that the war in Afghanistan may have had a wide range of effects on them. It is also important to recognise the Afghan women's resilience and strength in the face of these problems.
Why is it important to work with women impacted by this war on women?
As an Afghan Australian, it's important for me to work with women and learn about how the war affects them because it affects my community and who I am. The war in Afghanistan has had a terrible effect on Afghan women and their rights, and Afghan communities around the world have also felt this effect.
When the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021, there were new worries about the safety and rights of Afghan women. From 1996 to 2001, when the Taliban were in power, Afghan women faced a lot of restrictions and violence. As an Afghan Australian, I have friends who are directly affected by the current situation in Afghanistan. Being informed and involved can help me better support and fight for their rights.
Also, knowing how the war has affected Afghan women can help me understand how complicated the conflict in Afghanistan is and how Australia and other countries have been involved. This information can help me advocate for peace, security, and human rights in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Lastly, as a member of the Afghan diaspora, I have the chance to help bring attention to the situation in Afghanistan and fight for the rights of Afghan women and girls. By working with people in my community and beyond, I can help make sure that Afghan women's voices are heard and that their rights are protected.
Why is it important to take part in the war on women discussion on 12 March?
The Women in War discussion on March 12 is important to me because it gives us a chance to talk about the effects of war on women, especially in Afghanistan. This conversation can help shed light on the problems Afghan women face in war zones, such as violence, being forced to move, and losing family members and homes.
By taking part in this conversation, I can add to the global conversation about how war affects women and share my point of view as an Afghan Australian. My voice can help bring attention to the situation in Afghanistan and the experiences of Afghan women, who have been affected by the war in their country in a way that is out of proportion to the rest of the population.
By taking part in this discussion, I can also learn more about what it's like for women to live in conflict zones around the world and connect with other people who are working to help women deal with the problems they face. By making these connections and sharing information and experiences, we can work together to find solutions and help war-affected women become more independent.
Lastly, by taking part in this discussion, I hope to help bring attention to the rights of women affected by war, both in Afghanistan and around the world, and speak up for those rights. This is a big step towards making the world fairer and more just so that all women can live in safety and dignity, free from violence and unfair treatment.