Updated: Mar 23
On International Women’s Day last week, women across Melbourne celebrated their womanhood in unique ways.
The global holiday aims to “forge women’s equality”, striving for “a world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination” and full of “diversity, equity and inclusivity” according to the official International Women’s Day information site.
International Women’s Day (IWD) marks the time for women to embrace their achievements and all aspects of their womanhood.
IWD also calls to honour the legacy of the Suffragette movement for the modern woman. It was a day to commemorate the perseverance of women of the past, who have inherently shaped the rights of the women of the present.
RMIT Socialist club member, David, is a young and avid supporter of the socialist movement. He attended the RMIT Contingent International Women’s Day Rally on the Tuesday afternoon, 8 March 2023.
“[International Women’s Day] started out as a day where radical female workers started a socialist movement calling for equal rights and action on really important social issues” he said.
“[IWD] has kind of morphed into girl-bossing and champagne but it’s not about that,”’ he said.
“It’s really about ordinary women who are working. It’s about all sections of society rallying in solidarity because women make up half of the world and we need to be fighting for better women’s rights and conditions,” he said.
Where would women be without The Pankhurst Family?
The renowned feminist movement was led by British political activist and mother, Emmeline Pankhurst, alongside her daughter Christabel Pankhurst. The two paved the way for the modern woman through extreme civil disobedience and hunger strikes.
History associates the Pankhurst family name with feminism and the fight for women’s right to vote. The family is notorious for its heavy involvement and founding of The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU).
Married to Richard Pankhurst, an English barrister, socialist and avid supporter of women’s rights, Emmeline’s passion for women’s suffrage was reignited following her husband’s death in 1898.
Her daughter Christabel’s determination to bring about social reform for women’s rights provoked Emmeline to host the first WSPU meeting in her Manchester home, and the rest is history.
After countless arrests, hunger strikes, 17 years and 19 private member bills, Victorian women were granted, the right to vote on 18 November 1908.
The Suffragette Movement only marked the beginning of the progression of women’s rights. And while some may think we still have a long way to go, a group of young persons are well-pleased with the progress of women’s rights so far.
“It’s nice seeing how far we’ve progressed,” AJ Knight said.
“I like that we have rights now despite everything that we’ve been through as women,” Faith Koli said.
But according to youth Stevie, more work still needs to be done.
“We’re still in the process of getting there, but I know women have fought a long time to get just basic rights in this world,” they said.
The battle for women’s rights doesn’t stop here.
According to independent organisation, Amnesty International, “many women and girls still face discrimination on the basis of sex and gender”.
These injustices include the gender pay gap, workplace harassment, sexual violence, poor access to education and inadequate healthcare.
Locally speaking, Australia’s gender pay gap is 13.3 per cent according to the Australian Government Workplace Gender Equality Agency.
Meaning, “for every dollar on average men earned, women earned 87 cents”.
Australian women on average, earn $253.50 less than men per week, and $13,182 per year.
In regard to sexual assault in Australia, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 25 men have experienced at least one sexual assault since the age of 15, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Personal Safety Survey (PSS) in 2016.
Indeed, women’s rights have come a long way, but we haven’t yet achieved full equity.
IWD reminds us that the battle for women’s rights continues. There are still immense injustices happening right under our noses – in the workforce, in our homes, on our streets.
A day to celebrate the everyday women of Melbourne.
For some, womanhood is about more than the right to vote.
While International Women’s Day aims to celebrate the grand sacrifices of women in history, it is also the opportunity to exalt the simple but great sacrifices of everyday women in the workforce, home, or classroom.
Melbourne social worker, Nisha, shared her excitement in expecting her newborn baby.
The opportunity “to give birth and become a mother are things women should be proud of” she said.
From pregnancies to voting rights, there was something to celebrate for everyone on International Women’s Day 2023.
Let International Women’s Day be a day to commemorate the rich history of women and celebrate the women of today.