BY JUSTINE HAMILTON
Today, March 8, marks an important day on the global human rights calendar. International Women’s Day is celebrated annually both to acknowledge the advances women have made in the name of gender equity and to remind us there is still some way to go.
This year the theme for UN Women Australia’s International Women’s Day is one that has gradually moved its way into public discussion bearing a strong legion of advocates who voice growing concern over it.
The culture of violence against women is an unending one of which the statistics are staggering.
One in three women worldwide will experience physical violence; one in five will endure sexual violence in their lifetime. One only needs to look at recent attacks on women and girls in India and South Africa. Or the shooting of a young girl in the face by the Taliban in Pakistan last year. All she wanted was an education.
This year the focus of UN Women Australia’s International Women’s Day fundraising will go towards supporting the Critical Services Initiative in Papua New Guinea which provides funding to improve services and support available to women and children experiencing violence in various nations, particularly in the Pacific region.
Executive Director of UN Women Australia, Julie McKay says that violence against women is a catastrophe affecting women from all walks of life in every corner of the world.
“Gender based violence has a scarring effect on the women and families involved and a debilitating effect on the social and economic fabric of the communities and nations in which it occurs,” Ms McKay said.
“Women in the Pacific experience some of the highest levels of violence in the world. In Papua New Guinea, up to 65 per cent of women and girls have experienced physical violence, sexual violence or both. The figure is close to 100 per cent in the Highlands,” she said.
The Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) is UN Women Australia’s Government Partner for International Women’s Day. “AusAID is working with UN Women Australia to raise awareness of the severity of violence against women across the world,” said AusAID’s Director General Peter Baxter.
Mr Baxter said Australia has shown its commitment to ending violence against women on an international scale that has made it a high priority for the agenda of AusAID.
Ms McKay said that vital help must be maintained for vulnerable women and girls the world over. “Access to quality, universal and free critical services for women experiencing violence is a crucial step in assisting women and girls at a time of crisis. This is why UN Women Australia is calling on all supporters to assist women and girls who experience violence by donating to the Critical Services Initiative this International Women’s Day.”
For more information on the UN Women Australia’s International Women’s Day events visit www.unwomen.org.au
You can also purchase official International Women’s Day merchandise from Australia Post outlets and Esprit stores nationwide throughout the month of March.