International Women’s Day 2018: ‘No woman left behind’


Adelaide’s 2018 International Women’s Day Breakfast was once again the biggest in the country with over 2700 people in attendance.

Held at the Adelaide Convention Centre, and hosted by Senator Penny Wong; other notable guests included the Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove, SA Premier Jay Weatherill, and Opposition Leader Steven Marshall.

In a powerful speech, Penny Wong acknowledged how far women have come, but highlighted that there was still a way to go towards equality.

“The UN Secretary-General describes the achievement of gender equality as the unfinished business of our time and one of the greatest human rights challenges in our world,” she said.

“In Australia we know we still face a gender pay gap of 15 per cent and we know that our daughters are likely to earn less over their lifetimes than our sons, have fewer career opportunities, be more likely to be subjected to violence… and we also know that there are 130 million girls in this world who don’t attend school.

“In being here today we remind ourselves that what we want is a world in which our daughters genuinely have the same opportunities as our sons.”

Senator Wong also recognised the importance of bringing young women to the event and was impressed with the large number of school groups in the audience.

Keynote speaker and manager of the AFL’s Inclusion and Social Policy, Tanya Hosch, said sport was a “powerful vehicle for change” and the introduction of the AFLW was a step in the right direction.

“Progress doesn’t just come about by itself, it isn’t a passive state… we have to make it happen,” she said.

She also reflected on the past year as a time of empowerment and change, with the ‘#MeToo’ and ‘Time’s Up’ campaigns gaining momentum.

“We are in pursuit of a future where women are safe from violence, are paid equally, are promoted equally, and share public leadership equally,” Ms Hosch said.

Ms Hosch addressed the ‘because of her, we can’ NAIDOC campaign, and described it as a “powerful reminder that there are so many women that have forged the path for us to this point.”

“I believe it is our responsibility to tell their stories to our daughters and granddaughters and to our sons and grandsons, so they know this history because it is their history,” she said.

Aboriginal Elder Katrina Power, opened the breakfast with an official welcome to country and gave a “revved up” speech about the disadvantages Aboriginal women face in Australia.

Ms Power discussed the lack of voice Aboriginal women have and challenged Australian politicians to engage with a more diverse range of Aboriginal people.

“Have a look in your own backyard, white Australia, and see what’s happened to Aboriginal people in this country.”

“When will you start marching for Aboriginal people in this country?” Ms Power said.

Labelling herself as a “power woman”, Ms Power then reminded the audience of the important role women play in society.

“We are the mothers to all the men, all the boys and all the politicians that roam the earth,” she said.

Last year, Adelaide’s breakfast raised over $100,000 for the UN Women National Committee Australia.

The breakfast reflected the international focus on women empowering other women and this year’s theme of ‘no woman left behind’.

This year, UN Women is exploring the role females can play in protecting and empowering women and children, as they are 14 times more likely to die or be injured in a natural disaster.


As we celebrate the incredible success and strength of influential women in our society (such as Penny Wong and Tanya Hosch), we also must remember to acknowledge and advocate for the women who didn’t make the day’s headlines and the women who have fallen through the disproportionate cracks.

As much as International Women’s Day is an important reminder, we are a long way off in achieving global gender equality, it’s also significant to note a lot of women aren’t even part of the conversation, to begin with.

The theme of this International Women’s Day is ‘no woman left behind’, but, as Katrina Power rightly (and powerfully) put: women are left behind every day.

Indigenous women in Australia are 34-80 times more likely than average to experience violence.

An analysis, authored by Curtin University researcher Hannah McGlade found:

Aboriginal women here are 37 times more likely to be hospitalised than non-Aboriginal women for non-fatal family violence-related assaults. In the Northern Territory, the rate of hospitalisation is up to 86 times higher for Aboriginal women. In central Australia, this figure is 95 times more likely for Aboriginal women.

Across the globe, the 10 worst places to be a woman in the world reveal we’ve left innocent girls and women behind in the fight for gender equality.

Afghanistan is first with skyrocketing levels of domestic violence and half the girls under 16 forced into child brides. The suicide rate in Afghanistan is the only one in the world where the female suicide rate is higher than males.

Second place is the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country governed by the systemic rape and torture of women as a war tactic.

Iraq is third and has one million young girls and women displaced from their homes where they suffer an inferno of men’s violence against women.

Nepal is fourth. One in 24 babies die in childbirth or during pregnancy due to lack of medical aid. Rates of sex trafficking and numbers of child brides are rising.

Fifth is Sudan. Since 2003, one million women have been abducted, displaced and raped, with growing levels of systematic violence.

The last five are Guatemala, Mali, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Somali.

As Penny Wong said, women supporting women is a momentous step in paving the way for a more gender-inclusive and equal society.

However, holding expensive breakfasts with exclusive guests to talk about the plight of women in the nation and across the globe is all well and good for the women included.

But what does it mean for the women who are left behind? For the women who aren’t even part of the narrative for change because they don’t have a voice?

We need to hand the microphone over to them.



Image Source: Ashleigh Piles

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