A message from Penny Williams, Australia’s Global Ambassador for Women and Girls, on the occasion of International Women’s Day.
Around the world this International Women’s Day, communities are celebrating the remarkable advances women have made towards equality.
We acknowledge the historical milestones. Even more, we honour the daily determination of individual women and girls to be heard and to realise their aspirations - often against the odds or at great personal risk.
For while there have been enormous improvements in the status of women since the first International Women’s Day event was held in 1911, I am struck by how much remains to be done.
In Australia, our International Women’s Day focus is Supporting Economic Empowerment for Women.
We are pleased to partner with organisations like UN Women to promote the economic progress of women across our region and elsewhere.
The catch-cry that investing in women is not just the right thing to do but the smart thing to do, is familiar to us all.
For this reason, Australia is positioning women at the core of our development policies and programs – giving women access to markets, to capital, and to skills and knowledge; and working to ensure that every girl in the world gets to school.
Because this is where it starts – with our girls.
The particular rights and needs of girls are central to my work as Australia’s Global Ambassador for Women and Girls.
And last year, the United Nations agreed that 11 October would be celebrated as the International Day of the Girl.
Research shows that girls are more likely to suffer from malnutrition, be forced into an early marriage, be subject to violence or intimidation, be trafficked, sold or coerced into the sex trade, or become infected with HIV.
Yet investing in girls and young women has a disproportionately beneficial effect in alleviating poverty for everyone – the girls themselves, their families, communities and entire countries.
How important it is then that our young women are engaged in International Women’s Day programs; that they have opportunities to connect and be inspired.
At this time, we must commit ourselves anew to respond with strength and courage and creativity to the many ongoing challenges we face – and celebrate the opportunity to work together, across cultures, religions and politics, to achieve true political, economic and social empowerment for all women and girls.
On this International Women’s Day, I want to thank you for all you’ve done as leaders within your own communities, as voices insisting on justice for women and girls.
I wish every one of you well in the vital work that lies ahead, so that one day our daughters and our granddaughters and their daughters will be celebrating the future that we envisaged and brought into being for them.