On Tuesday 8 March, we celebrated International Women’s Day, as so many others did around the world. Our day at Ascham was one of insightful discussions, amazing guest speakers, and vital awareness-building around the IWD theme #BreakTheBias. One group of Year 11 students was fortunate to attend the IWD Lunch at the International Convention Centre, hosted by UN Women Australia.
Year 11 student Miri Leibman wrote this passionate piece about being a young woman today and the issues that burn:
‘Women and girls around the world play a role in shaping a more equal future. As a student leader in a girls’ school, I hope to set an example for other young women to be proud of who they are, to stand up for the causes in which they believe, to have a voice, and to help drive change.
‘In December 2021, the feminist poet, academic and social activist bell hooks passed away. In her book, Feminism is for Everybody, Passionate Politics, she wrote, “If any female feels she needs anything beyond herself to legitimate and validate her existence, she is giving away her power to be self-defining, her agency.”
‘I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have joined Ascham last year, in Term 4 of Year 10. Having spent my entire schooling in a co-ed setting, I found the new all-girls environment both confronting and liberating. I could not believe the difference I felt to be surrounded by intelligent, driven young women. I no longer feel the need to define myself by how I might be perceived by ‘the boys’. My confidence as a woman has grown as I am surrounded by a powerful generation of astute and bright young women, with gender no longer part of the equation. I reflect often on the impact this change has had on me, and on how it’s shaped my perspective on being a woman in the world. I feel motivated and empowered, and a deep sense of obligation to be a voice for change, for gender equality and for women’s rights.
‘As an Australian teenager, I feel both pride and discomfort. I am proud of the brave young women who have had the strength and courage to speak up and to speak out about mistreatment of women. I am so proud to be a young Australian among women like Grace Tame, Brittany Higgins and Chanel Contos. However, at the same time I am angry at the dismissive response of those men (and some women) in power in Canberra to Brittany Higgins’ allegations of rape in federal parliament. And, on a greater scale this represents the frequent dismissal of women’s rights. This serves as a reminder that we are not there yet and there is still work to be done.
‘Therefore, I believe all women (and men) should feel responsible to drive change in shaping a more equal future. A future where the pay gap is no longer 14.2%, a future in which more than just 28% of women feel comfortable working in STEAM, a future where not only 22% of parliamentarians are female and a future where one in three women don’t experience sexual violence at some point in their life.
‘Like Grace Tame, I wish for there to be an environment where we can be true to our beliefs. As seen with her cold greeting towards the Prime Minister, she stood for what she believed in and did not conform to the environment confining her. The bell hooks quote above, continues, ‘I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance,’ which embodies her actions perfectly.
‘Being in an all-girls school has given me the courage and inspiration to own my views and stand proudly as a woman, and hopefully, like others before me, set an example, giving other girls the courage to be truly and proudly themselves. For it is up to us to bring about a more equal future for all.’
On IWD we had the honour of being visited by Marwa, who recently escaped Afghanistan. Marwa spoke to Years 8 and 9 about her life.
#BreakTheBias was the 2022 IWD theme and we decorated our School with it loud and clear!
Students demonstrate #BreakTheBias on International Women’s Day 2022