Celebrating International Women’s Day in Cowra

IWD2014On the 9th of March, the country town of Cowra celebrated International Women’s Day by learning about the experiences of refugee women around the world and rural women in the South Pacific.

Highlighting the United Nations theme of the Cowra Festival of International Understanding, the sold out luncheon encouraged residents to consider the issues faced by women in different parts of the world.

UNHCR Senior Protection Officer for Australia, Ellen Hansen spoke at the event about the lessons she had learned from working at the UN Refugee Agency for 15 years.

“Displacement compounds the many issues women face such as sexual violence, poor reproductive health and limited access to education and income,” she explained.

Ms Hansen said she believed that as we are all connected, everyone can make a difference as simple solutions work. She said that education is the key to the advancement of women and men are part of the solution.

In recognition of the 2014 International Year of Family Farming photos and stories of women from the Suva markets in Fiji were displayed, highlighting the differences between rural women in Cowra and the Pacific Islands.

Among them was the story of Seini Nacagi, who leaves her home at 4am every Thursday to travel three hours by bus to the Suva market with her cassava and dalo produce. Seini must sell all of her produce so as not to take it back with her and because of this she often misses the last bus and must walk home.

Reading the Secretary-General’s message, UNIC Canberra Director Mr Christopher Woodthorpe stressed that equality for women is progress for all.

“”Countries with more gender equality have better economic growth… Parliaments with more women enact more legislation on key social issues such as health, education, anti-discrimination and child support. The evidence is clear: equality for women means progress for all.”

Mr Woodthorpe remarked that ten of the twelve Festival Youth Ambassadors were girls, a testimony to the hope for greater gender equality in the future.

Two of the youth ambassadors spoke at the event about why the International Day was important to them personally.

Local federal member Angus Taylor MP also spoke about the significance of the day by relating it to his own family.