Women's day is relevant to all

Men should be encouraged to attend events like the International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrations held by the IEU in regional areas and Sydney recently, Federal MP for Lindsay Emma Husar said.

Emma was guest speaker at the IEU’s event in Wattle St. She covered a wide range of issues pertinent to women (and men), including her now famous address to parliament where she outlined her own family history of domestic violence.

IEU Women’s Organiser Pam Smith pointed out that IWD was an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women in education and the union movement, but also a time to reflect on challenges and threats.

She included US President Donald Trump among the list of threats to women’s causes.

“You can never take anything for granted. There’s more misogyny around than you may realise,” Pam said.

I personalised an issue that is not usually spoken about. Stats mean nothing,a personal story means everything.

Equal pay, cuts to penalty rates (which predominantly affects women), threats to paid parental leave, the omnibus bill before parliament and anti discrimination legislation were all issues requiring vigilance, Pam said.

She highlighted the plight of early childhood teachers, who may work across the corridor from school teachers, doing the same job with the same qualifications, but earn $20-30,000 less.

Emma, whose first job was a teacher, praised the three men who had turned out for the IWD event and said more men should attend such events. Emma is chair of the Labor Party’s Status of Women Committee and she encourages men to attend such events, often with cake.

“It’s an economic argument really. If Australia had the same female workforce participation as Canada our GDP would increase by $25 billion.”

Emma said she had encountered sexism in federal parliament, including being called part of a “handbag hit squad” and being told she had her position only due to a quota system, by members of the opposition.

The way men and women interacted during question time was also evidence of subtle discrimination.

She said it would take until 2046 to have equal representation in parliament at the current rate of progress, with Labor pushing forward with 12 out of 24 seats in NSW now held by women.

Referring to her speech on domestic violence in November last year, Emma said she had no idea the impact it would have.

She spoke of her own father’s abuse of her mother, and her own abusive marriage.

“I’ve been very humbled. I’ve received messages from people around the world. This touched so many people – it impacts on so many women’s lives.

“I personalised an issue that is not usually spoken about. Stats mean nothing, a personal story means everything.”

Emma said many people, including clerks in parliament house, had disclosed their own stories to her and thanked her for her speech.

“They felt empowered to know people in politics were going through the same things.

“This has got a life of its own; I feel a sense of responsibility to push on with it.”

Emma raised other issues of importance to women, particularly that older women are experiencing the fastest rate of homelessness, often due to divorce and the low rates of superannuation they have.

The Union also held special IWD events in Bathurst and Canberra. See next issue for coverage.