Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.
Kofi Annan, UN General-Secretary 1997-2006
Gender equality isn’t a women’s issue. It is a social and economic problem affecting all of us, right across the globe. It is the root cause of violence against women; it directly contributes to women’s financial insecurity and poverty; and it is behind older women’s homelessness. The problem is big, but it is within our reach to fix it, if we work together. This is what NCOSS is seeking in our A New Year for Women campaign. We want to shape an Action for Women Plan that will improve opportunities and outcomes for women, focussing first on NSW – the region we know deeply – but a plan that has the potential for broader application. And we need your help.
We are focused on the economic inequality that women and girls experience across their life cycle. This inequality accumulates and compounds to further disadvantage women as they move through life and impacts on their health and wellbeing across their life course. And we know that particular groups of women are more financially vulnerable and need targeted solutions to ensure their economic empowerment, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, culturally and linguistically diverse women, women with disability and women living in regional and remote areas.
Although we aren’t directly addressing violence against women in this instance, economic inequality is a contributing factor in domestic and family violence and a significant barrier preventing women from leaving violent relationships. Economic empowerment is a key weapon in the fight to keep women and their children physically, emotionally, and psychologically safe.
A New Year for Women concentrates on four strategic areas that impact the economic wellbeing of women and girls across their lifetimes:
- Financial literacy
- Representation of women in work
Women and girls need to be financially literate so they can make good financial decisions throughout their lives. They need to know how to navigate their finances and how to protect themselves from homelessness should things go awry. A fundamental part of economic empowerment is workplace gender equality, which is crucial for achieving pay equity and ending gender stereotypes. But women also need to understand what a sound financial plan for their retirement looks like, as well as how to work towards that in light of the career breaks they are likely to encounter. These are the areas that we need to be actively working in to economically empower women. It’s a two-part process: we need to arm women with the tools they need to succeed, but we also need systemic change to create real gender equality in the workplace and in society as a whole.
Gender inequality isn’t a state-based issue or an Australian problem. It transcends state and national boundaries. And while it may manifest differently in diverse cultures and communities, gender inequity derives from the same root cause: valuing women and girls less than boys and men. We can end this. We must end this. Because we all lose – economically, politically, socially – when we denigrate half the world’s population. Instead let’s create an Action for Women Plan taking NSW – our home state – as our starting point, but keeping the world beyond our borders in mind. We need a plan that clearly identifies the steps that each level of government – along with business, civil society, and the international community – must take to economically empower women and end gender inequality. Together let’s fix this.