Queensland Women's Week 2019
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 124 No 3, 23 April 2019, page no. 21
Queensland Women’s Week (2-10 March) provided an exciting and much-needed opportunity to celebrate the many great and exciting achievements of women and girls throughout our state.
Encompassing International Women’s Day IWD (8 March), the week is a crucial annual event to reflect on gender equity in our classrooms, our workplaces, our homes and the wider community.
The statewide theme for Women’s Week was “Invest in Women, Invest in the Future”, with a focus on women’s economic security. Our EB9 campaign proudly includes a gender employment equity component, which seeks to mitigate some of the compounding impacts of breaks in service and part-time service and some of the barriers resulting in the disproportionately low number of women in senior management positions.
By far, the most exciting and important IWD events are those organised at school level, to engage students in discussions about gender roles, historical events and suffrage, and current issues that impact gender equity. Many also focus on international issues, looking to developing countries and their treatment of women and girls.
One wonderful school-based program is the Girls Group coordinated by Tonia Karpinskaia at Windaroo Valley State High School. They held a celebration Enable breakfast this year and also produce a student-led magazine called Girl Friendly. Female students across all year levels are able to participate in this positive, safe and inspirational program.
QTU women engaged in IWD events across the state, but a highlight was the IWD celebration at the conclusion of the annual QTU Union Reps Conference on 8 March, when members of our Women, Teachers and Girls Education committee officially farewelled our former chair, and former QTU Vice-President, Sam Pidgeon, who last year was sworn in as only the seventh woman Commissioner in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission.
The department held an event in Mary Street this year, and it was streamed across the state enabling participation across the state.
Much still to do
In the past year there have been some significant changes for Queensland women. These include the decriminalising of abortion (and the establishment of safe zones surrounding clinics), the introduction of revenge porn laws, the removal of GST from feminine hygiene products, and the requirement that ALL Queensland state schools provide genuine uniform options for female students, including a shorts/pants option.
But, the reality is we have a long way to go. Domestic and family violence continues to be a scourge, there is a distressing spike in suicides among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are disproportionately represented in our prison population. We still have an inexcusable gender pay gap, and sexual harassment in the workplace is so underreported that the Australian Human Rights Commission launched a national inquiry last year (we are awaiting the outcomes).
I am continually dismayed by the barriers and lack of support for part-time, and the lack of reliable information provided to women who are pregnant about their working conditions.
But I am buoyed by the tenacious women who raise their voices for others, particularly when feminist activism is echoed by moans of #notallmen and “whatabouttery”. These predictable attempts to dilute and divert energy and focus do little to address how toxic forms of masculinity and misogyny harm not only women, but also men. Proud QTU women have stood up when sexual harassment by students towards teachers is dismissed as “boys being boys”, or when women are warned about cohabitating with men in teacher accommodation, or the pregnant contract teacher is told her contract isn’t being extended even though she has worked at the school for almost three years.
Our Union has so many talented, smart and supportive women, making a real difference.