A call for Government leadership this International Women's Day

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March 8th 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Adopted in 1995 at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, the Beijing Platform for Action is recognised as the most progressive roadmap for the empowerment of women and girls.

Despite some progress, real change has been agonizingly slow for many women and girls. Women and girls continue to be undervalued; they work more and earn less and have fewer choices; and experience multiple forms of violence at home and in public spaces. Furthermore, there is a significant threat of rollback of hard-won feminist gains.

 

REALISING WOMEN’S RIGHTS DEPENDS ON MEANINGFUL INVESTMENT BY GOVERNMENT IN COMMUNITY-BASED WOMEN’S HEALTH, SEXUAL ASSAULT SUPPORT & UNPLANNED PREGNANCY SUPPORT SERVICES. THIS IS NOT HAPPENING IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA. THE IMPACT OF THE ERO ON OPERATING COSTS, AND NO INCREASE IN FUNDING IN NEARLY A DECADE MEANS THAT THE HEALTH, SAFETY AND SUPPORT NEEDS OF MANY WOMEN IN OUR COMMUNITY ARE NOT BEING MET.

 

  • Nearly one woman a week is killed by her partner

  • One in six females experience abuse before they are 15
  • Based on national population surveys and set against a backdrop of declines in overall violence, rates of partner violence and sexual violence have remained relatively stable since 2005
  • The rate of hospitalisation of women assaulted by a spouse or partner has risen by 23 per cent
  • The number of people seeking services due to family, domestic and sexual violence continues to rise
  • One in six women have experienced stalking
  • One in two women have experienced sexual harassment
  • Despite Western Australia having legislation to ensure women have the right to exercise reproductive choices, there remain barriers and service gaps that affect women’s access to affordable healthcare, contraception and termination services across the state
  • Reproductive coercion limits women’s autonomy over her fertility and reproductive health and choices
  • Women’s economic inequality imposes a significant cost on women and is an underlying driver of gender-based violence
  • Women face disproportionate economic insecurity; cumulative disadvantages intensify this gender divide
  • Housing insecurity impacts women across the life course
  • Gender specific risk factors for common mental disorders that disproportionately affect women include gender based violence, socioeconomic disadvantage, low income and income inequality, low or subordinate social status and unremitting responsibility for the care of others
  • The high prevalence of sexual violence to which women are exposed and the correspondingly high rate of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following such violence, renders women the largest single group of people affected by this disorder.
  • Intersectionality matters – those who face the greatest levels of risk – and therefore require the highest levels of resilience – are often those who face the highest inequality and barriers to accessing their rights in everyday life. This often includes Aboriginal women, women with disabilities, culturally and linguistically diverse women, older women, LGBTQI, women with chronic health conditions and others who are contextually marginalised, such as women with mental health issues and use alcohol and other drugs.
  • Western Australian female students, and particularly those in Years 7 to 12, rate their wellbeing less favourably than male students, particularly in areas relating to mental health, self-perception, conflict, relationships, personal safety and independence.

 

COMMUNITY-BASED WOMEN’S HEALTH, SEXUAL ASSAULT SUPPORT & UNPLANNED PREGNANCY SUPPORT SERVICES ARE STARVED OF FUNDS. IN ORDER TO DELIVER ON COMMITMENTS TO GENDER EQUALITY, HEALTH AND WELLBEING, AND WOMEN’S RIGHT TO LIVE FREE FROM VIOLENCE AND FEAR, THE WA LABOR GOVERNMENT MUST INCREASE SUPPORT TO WOMEN’S ORGANISATIONS.

 

Women’s Services

Community-based women’s health, sexual assault support, and unplanned pregnancy support services are located across Western Australia; providing essential services to particularly disadvantaged women in our community. Services address women’s health and wellbeing across the spectrum, from health promotion and empowerment, through to clinical approaches and treatment. Services work to promote women’s health, safety and wellbeing across areas such as: sexual and reproductive health, mental health and violence against women.

Services for women and girls grew out of the demand from community members for tailored services that addressed issues particular to women and girls’ experiences; and the health impacts of key issues, such as gender inequality and violence against women.  It was also recognised that responding to women’s health needs, differences and drivers can empower women and improve their health outcomes. 

Women’s services have been specifically developed in acknowledgement of historical disadvantage that women and girls face as a result of gender, taking into account other issues of disadvantage such as race, class, education, age, poverty, sexuality, disability, geographical location, cultural isolation and language. 

The uniqueness of specialist women’s services and programs ensures that service delivery, research, and policy addresses the economic, social and cultural obstacles that disadvantage women and prevent them from reaching their potential.

It is important to recognise the proven efficacy of the established specialist women’s services sector. These services are at the forefront of improving women’s health, safety, economic security and access to justice. The impact and effectiveness of these specialist services is underpinned by a set of good practice principles that are supported by international research and evidence-based practice.

 

COMMUNITY-BASED WOMEN’S HEALTH SERVICES ARE UNIQUE IN THEIR ABILITY TO SUPPORT, MOBILISE AND INSPIRE WOMEN AND SEEK TO ESTABLISH LONG TERM SOLUTIONS TO THE CHALLENGES THEY FACE.

 

The strong track record of women’s organisations is a reflection of their specialist gender expertise. Many emerged as a direct response to the injustice or abuse that women experience and so have in-depth understanding of the issues and a direct connection to a constituency of women. Where resources are limited, it does not therefore make sense to fund the work of mainstream organisations at the expense of women’s organisations which have strong gendered analysis, are a crucial source of knowledge and innovation on women’s issues, and whose existence affirms women’s leadership and participation.

 

THERE IS A REAL RISK OF REVERSALS IN PROGRESS ON GENDER EQUALITY UNLESS PROGRESSIVE GOVERNMENTS COMMIT TO INCREASING FUNDS FOR WOMEN’SORGANISATIONS

Sources

Alpizar, L., Clark, C., Rosenhek, S. and Vidal, V. 2010. Context and Trends Influencing the Funding Landscape for Gender Equality and Women’s Organizations and Movements, Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) http://www.awid.org/content/download/109528/1254849/file/5%20%20FundHer%20Research%20U

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2018. Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia 2018. Cat. no. FDV 2. Canberra: AIHW.

AWAVA 2016:  The role of specialist women’s services in Australia’s response to violence against women and their children http://awava.org.au/2016/04/07/research/role-specialist-womens-services-australias-response-violence-women-children

Commissioner for Children and Young People 2020, Speaking Out Survey 2019. The views of WA children and young people on their wellbeing - a summary report, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA, Perth.

https://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/genderwomen/en/