By Sharman Stone, Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls
Today is International Women’s Day. This year’s theme, Be Bold for Change, calls on all of us to step up to help create a world that is more inclusive and equal. The aim is for a world that is more peaceful and sustainable, where the contribution of women is recognised, valued and respected.
I am just back from Papua New Guinea’s Highlands where women had come together to talk about ways to change their lives. These women – mothers and grandmothers – were attending a two day workshop called ‘Strengthening our Voices Together’. Over 400 women and a handful of men packed into the Goroka auditorium, double the numbers expected. Many had travelled great distances to be there. We all cheered the woman who walked for seven hours down a valley to catch transport, so she could be there too.
These women were eager to share experiences, to listen and to learn. They worked together to find ways to make a safer, kinder place for themselves, their daughters and for their communities.
I was humbled and proud to be there, as Australia’s new (and third) Ambassador for Women and Girls. It is important to learn with these women and to assure them that Australia is steadfast in our commitment to support them.
From local to global
Next week I will be in New York representing Australia at the UN’s Commission for the Status of Women. UN Women plays a key role in engaging and coordinating the global effort to increase women’s empowerment and to reduce poverty and violence.
New York is clearly quite some distance from the Highlands of PNG. But these powerful women from Europe, Africa, Asia and the Pacific – and from our own indigenous communities – will come together in New York, determined to make a difference.
Representing the UN, NGOs, private enterprises, faith groups and nations, each have come such a long way on their own personal journeys. In New York, they will share their stories, united in their efforts to change the status of women.
While I am at the United Nations, mixing with so many inspiring and empowered women, I will recall the women who cannot yet even imagine such a global gathering and having their voices heard. I will remind myself of our strong and inspirational sister who walked for seven hours down a muddy valley track so she could learn how to challenge and change her world, and ours, for the better.
On this International Women’s Day we need to celebrate so much that has been achieved, while we recognise that so much still needs to be done.
Dr Sharman Stone
Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls
Communications and Parliamentary Branch at the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade