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International Women’s Day: supporting an equal and enabled world

Posted: 7 March 2020

Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Alumni, Experience, Impact, Scholar,

This Sunday, 8 March, the world will come together to mark International Women’s Day, celebrating women’s achievements and encouraging all of us—individually and collectively—to help create a gender equal world.

Drawing on the notion of “collective individualism”, the global theme of International Women’s Day 2020 is #EachforEqual. In alignment with this theme, Australia Awards – South and West Asia aims to contribute towards a gender equal world through the individual actions, conversations, behaviours and mindsets of our Program staff, alumni, scholars—and the wider Australia Awards community—having a cumulative impact on our broader society.

We support the idea that “an equal world is an enabled world”. Through our International Women’s Day activities across Program countries and in Australia, we aim to demonstrate that it is not the responsibility of one team or one organisation to drive gender parity, but of us all, each and every one.

This year we join the global movement to bring equality to women’s sports, aligning with International Women’s Day’s mission to celebrate women athletes. The ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Final, which will take place at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on 8 March, will provide a ground- breaking opportunity to set a new world record for the highest attendance at a women’s sporting event, helping to inspire gender equality in pay, sponsorship and visibility in the field of sports. Australia Awards scholars in Melbourne will attend the World Cup Final and have the opportunity for a pre-show meet and greet with the cricket players, thanks to the support of the Australian Government.

This also gives us the opportunity to reflect back on our International Women’s Day celebrations last year when we acknowledged Australia Awards alumna Aisha Jalil for her tremendous contributions towards developing women’s cricket in Pakistan.

In other states across Australia, Australia Awards scholars have been attending UN Women Australia’s official International Women’s Day breakfasts this week, thanks to the support of an inspirational Program supporter, Ms Janelle Weissman, Executive Director, UN Women Australia.

Scholars interacting with Dr Janelle Weissman and Dr Shashini Gamage

Scholars and alumni interacting with Ms Janelle Weissman, Executive Director, UN Women Australia, at a Scholars Forum in Canberra. This week, scholars are attending UN Women Australia’s official International Women’s Day events

The Australia Awards Women in Leadership Network (WiLN) for South and West Asia is also actively involved in marking International Women’s Day this year. Since its launch in 2015, the network has become an important avenue to support the empowerment of women and has opened functioning chapters in Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. The network includes nearly 200 women and men committed to taking collective action and building capacities and capabilities to contribute to the achievement of long-term sustainable development in the region.

Australia Awards and the WiLN chapters have initiated various events this month across the region to celebrate International Women’s Day 2020. One of these events is in Pakistan, where the Australian High Commissioner will be inviting alumni, including the Pakistan Chapter of WiLN, for a meet-and-greet event that will provide an opportunity to discuss the network’s achievements and future plans. Likewise, the WiLN Bangladesh chapter will be gathering later this month to reflect on the network’s achievements towards equality since its establishment. In Sri Lanka, Australia Awards alumna Madhavie Gunawardane will be supported to launch a series of information sessions across the country to create awareness of employment terms and conditions for women.

The Australia Awards Program boasts alumni across the region who are challenging stereotypes and gendered roles—while at the same time making a difference. To mark International Women’s Day 2020, we are turning the spotlight on a few such alumnae:

  • Jhuma Dewan is dedicated to conservation and environmental management for marginalised communities in Bangladesh. Learn more

  • Rajuna Singh has overcome several barriers as a person with disability and is a role model in the disability community in Nepal. Learn more

Below we have showcased a few other exceptional Australia Awards alumnae driving gender balance, making an impact in their industries and facilitating women’s empowerment in the region.