By JULIE MCKAY
Two nights ago I attended the Telstra Business Women’s Awards, where many amazing and inspirational speakers shared their wisdom with us, including Mamamia’s own Mia Freedman. Last year’s ACT Winner, Helen Watchirs, the Human Rights Commissioner called on all attendees to think about what they were going to do personally to ensure human rights – in our local community and across the world. I have been thinking about that comment and about what my answer would be. At first, I worried that perhaps nothing I ever do will save lives – not on the scale that we need lives to be saved. Perhaps in my lifetime, we won’t see an end to violence against women. But wow, Helen, I am going to spend every day trying to make exactly the kind of contribution you asked us to make.
Today is the International Day of the Girl Child, a day that the United Nations established to promote the rights of girls and raise awareness of the disadvantaged faced by girls across the world. Today, we must all take stock. We live in a world where women and girls make up 70 per cent of the world’s poor. We live in a world where girls are less likely to access education, health services, are too often married off early, risk dying in childbirth, lack access to employment. We live in a world which fundamentally undervalues the contribution that women make to our families, communities and societies.
Nearly a year ago to the day, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban for speaking out in support of girls’ education. Since that day, with the support of her family she has survived and gone on to be an international spokesperson for girls’ education. Never, it seems, missing a beat concerned by the ever present threat of repercussions. She has exhibited the sort of bravery which one can only imagine.
This week, we have heard about a Saudi man sentenced to 8 years jail for torturing and killing his own daughter who he suspected was not a virgin. His daughter was 5 years old. It is possible that he will not actually go to jail, because he may have an option to pay ‘blood money’.
On our watch, Malala was shot in the head for believing she and her friends should be able to go to School. Lama was killed, because we haven’t done enough to eradicate violence against women and girls.
The National Committee for UN Women is running a fundraising campaign to support UN Women’s work in empowering women and girls across more than 80 countries. Funds raise will be used to support programs which are providing girls with access to education and working with communities to increase the understanding of women’s rights, women’s value and the fundamental principles of human rights. This work is hard to see and hard to touch… but if you want to create a better future for girls , for the world’s daughters – you can make a huge difference today.
Julie McKay is the Executive Director of the Australian National Committee for UN Women