International Women’s Day 2023: Much to celebrate, much to be done
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 128 No 2, 31 March 2023, page no. 16
International Women’s Day took place on 8 March in the middle of Queensland Women’s Week. Throughout the week, the QTU sought to raise awareness about the need for gender equity and celebrated the work the union movement is undertaking to achieve this. Newly appointed QTU Women’s Officer, Gillian Armit, reflects on the QTU’s most recent gender equity achievements and the need for continued action.
“Start where you stand…” Those words made me pause the podcast, rewind 15 seconds, listen again. “Start where you stand”. Julia Gillard was speaking with Dr Lina AbiRafeh, global women’s rights expert and gender equality advocate. Dr AbiRafeh was describing the moment she saw those words graffitied on a wall in Nepal after the 2015 earthquake. She said how they gave her pause, because women often ask what they can do and where to start.
International Women’s Day is a day on which we celebrate the achievements of women, but we also stop to think about the work of those who have gone before us and wonder what our next steps should be to progress gender equity. We often believe we must somehow get everything done at once, and feel the enormity of the task. We must fix the gender pay gap, ensure more women in leadership are supported to work part-time, end domestic and family violence, help women in their 60s who are the fastest growing group of homeless people in this country, end discrimination and sexual harassment, and support consent education. And that’s not even the half of it. Deciding where to start can be overwhelming.
I’ve read and listened to, devoured even, the words of so many women in the lead up to this International Women’s Day. What I have heard over and over is that lasting change usually takes time, but this should be no deterrent. If anything, it makes the task ever more urgent.
How do we achieve change though? Is it through reform or is it through revolution? These are the musings of British science journalist Angela Saini, and they have got me thinking about some of the reforms our Union has achieved.
Recently, some 13,000 part-time teachers across the state progressed to senior teacher and experienced senior teacher 1 and 2. This will make a difference to so many of our members who work part-time due to caring responsibilities for children and aging family members. As so many members have noted, here we have a living example of gender pay equity in action. This life-changing reform was not achieved swiftly. Instead, it was pursued and progressed through the QTU’s EB9 gendered log of claims. Members determined that it was something that must be won.
An updated classification stream for community teachers in the new agreement is the start of momentous reform for First Nations members, achieved through significant advocacy and dogged determination. Hearing the stories of members who have worked for decades in their school communities without the remuneration they deserved was, in the simplest of terms, just so unfair, and it had to change. In a highly feminised workforce, the majority of the teachers who have received this long overdue and significant pay rise are women, and the impact for them and their families and communities cannot be overestimated.
Here we see fair pay and progression for both groups of members, significant achievements that will benefit all genders. The distinction being made here is that they are reforms that took time and effort, pursued by QTU women and First Nations activists, officers, committees, and importantly our allies, for the benefit of all. This work can be celebrated by all.
Unionists, regardless of gender, understand that we are ever in the pursuit of what is fair and just. That we seek a world where all of us may thrive, free from all forms of violence and discrimination. While we have made significant steps forward for gender equity, we are not there yet, but we are also not done trying.
What can you do? Start where you stand.