(Emma Mactaggart, guest speaker as a Finalist in the 2012 Strong Women’s Leadership Awards, at a function hosted by QRRRWN)
International Women’s Day has a different meaning or a different purpose in different countries, depending on how women are valued in that society. What started as a socialist political event in 1909 has evolved to encompass a broad spectrum of activities; from celebrations of respect, appreciation and love towards women to protesting and demanding change in women’s economic, political and social status.
Today, the United Nations have suggested a theme as a starting point for this year’s International Women’s Day 2013.
"A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.”
In Australia, even though there are still broad issues to contend with, there is no doubt the agenda have evolved beyond protest to celebration.
We can celebrate the support we receive from other women. We can celebrate the future and all of its opportunities for our daughters. Fortunately, we live in a country where it’s possible to take our own fate into our own hands. We are empowered by virtue of the fact that we can access education, therefore we can independently thrive.
We have extraordinary examples of women who break the ground for us, demonstrating anything is possible. A Governor-General, a female Prime Minister, a CEO of a major bank and until recently, a female Attorney General. They all demonstrate that there no longer is a glass ceiling in Australia – not if you really want to achieve your goals. The retiring Attorney General also demonstrated that is also completely acceptable to reprioritize and choose your family, rather than your country, when allocating the bulk of your energy and time.
We can do what ever we wish to do.
For me, IWD celebrates the evolution of women, recognizing our significant contribution to society. It creates a ‘lets’ do it’ date to gather, like we have today, under the nurturing support of an organization like the Queensland Rural, Regional and Remote Women’s Network, (QRRRWN). Today, we definitely can celebrate ‘Building Connections’.
We are fortunate to be functioning within our culture, wanting, demanding and working towards building strong communities, strong connections.
It is important to understand the support for women comes directly from within these connections – within a small community like the Women’s Network, as much as it does from any broader community.
Support for the choices I have made in my career comes from women:
Writing my first book, having it snapped up by supportive friends encouraging me to create another; to the remarkable women with whom I formed a CAN – a community action network, lobbying for a presence in Toowoomba by the National Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect. Saying ‘yes’ to Jill Temple’s invitation to be the schools ‘Literacy Ambassador’ for the year because she believed in what I had to say. The subsequent enduring support of Jill and equally passionate literacy advocate, Jan Watkins, as they both encouraged me to persist with developing the Child Writes program to grant children a very loud voice indeed. My editor and Business Development Manager, Ainsley Shepherd and I established our connection through a mutual love of writing and she stepped up after ‘discovering’ Child Writes and asked to be involved. Now, newly trained Child Writes tutors Jodie Rigby, Jen Perrignon and Kathleen Flanagan, are voicing their support by learning the program and making it available to more and more people. And in the context of a broader platform for supporting both adult and children authors, Janet Kieseker and I built on our connection made through book club and social discourse, recognizing the model for distribution needed to change, and we joined forces to create writers’ web.
Each of these women has had, and still continues to have, a very fundamentally inspirational and supportive role in my world.
This process of taking support when it is given can well and truly balanced on the other side of the ledger. Women are the strongest contributors to a community – we drive its cohesion, we set the dialogue. It is women who recognise the needs of others in the community and action it – from the simplest of gestures like cooking and delivering a casserole to a new mother or bigger picture ideas like developing comprehensive programs like Community Bounce Back assisting people recovering from natural disasters; to giving your all in any position in public office, in the workplace or in the home.
For me, I balanced the ledger by support blossoming creative endeavors of my friends; the involvement with NAPCAN meant I could make deeper, broader connections within Toowoomba to affect change; and I reciprocated Jill’s support and offered her the gift what was the first Child Writes workshop. I have donated a significant amount of time and energy to children ensuring they have had the opportunity to experience the program. I have the desire to eventually hand over Child Writes to Ainsley and to Jodie. Writers’ web is genuinely making a different to women writers who wish to be heard. Jen remains steadfast as a very good friend, the first person I met when we moved to Toowoomba from a property in northern NSW!
We are terribly good at creating a community. We should thoroughly embrace opportunities like the Strong Women Leadership Award which explores the concepts of connectivity, of empowerment, of self education in a nurturing, caring environment.
We are spectacular in promoting the need and desire to create connections and to build upon them. We are even better at celebrating our successes.
A promise IS a promise. It’s just that today; whilst we celebrate, we really need to remember that, as much as an individual as a participant in a group, we can’t take our eye of the prize – and it is everyone’s responsibility to work towards true and enduring equity for all in a safe and peaceful world.