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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 01 Hansard (Wednesday, 14 February 2018) . . Page.. 222 ..

Last year, 2017, was marked by women standing up on a global scale, brandishing the new power that social media gives us to unite our voices and quieten the doubters. There truly is power in numbers. The #metoo campaign swept across the world, giving women the confidence to say, “I have been sexually assaulted too. It wasn’t okay, but I was too shocked or scared to speak up. This is my story.” I cannot do justice in this speech to the power of those stories, and there are too many to repeat; it would take us years. But for the women who have had to deal with their traumas and also for the public who have been forced to look at how we respond to the stories of sexual assault and men’s abuse of power, there is power in those stories.

The year 2017 was also the year when international politics shocked us into realising that the road towards equality really is not that straightforward. While equality may seem irrefutably fair and reasonable, we will no doubt face blockades established by those who benefit the most from our subjugation. There will be some steps backwards but we will not be deterred. We will look backwards but we will march forwards.

The theme of the Canberra march was “Unbroken” and looked at local and global issues affecting women. We made a human chain, standing together against the continued harassment and violence women face as we strive for a more inclusive future. The atmosphere surrounding the show of solidarity was electric. It was an empowering moment to be part of. Speakers on the day represented strong Canberra women from a wide range of backgrounds. Stories were shared that reflect the experience of young, gender diverse, disabled, Indigenous and ethnically diverse women in our community. Their words shed light on some of the specific challenges these groups face. I will quickly share some of them with you today.

Nip and Gayana of GG’s Flowers, which I have spoken about many times, spoke about the experiences of women with disabilities. They highlighted how important it is to include young women with disabilities in formal work opportunities. They spoke from firsthand experience, having founded GG’s Flowers when they realised that Gayana had limited employment opportunities. Despite being eager to work and boasting a very friendly personality, Gayana was overlooked for work because of her Down syndrome. So they took matters into their own hands and established GG’s Flowers. I understand they have had a very successful day today.

Jenni Atkinson, a renowned advocate for gender diverse and trans people, also shared her insights on the day. Jenny is the founder of TranzAustralia and is an active member of Canberra’s LGBTIQ-focused organisations, including Quire and SpringOUT Pride Festival. Jenny transitioned 27 years ago and has since dedicated a lot of her resources to educating people about gender diversity and helping the LGBTIQ community. She let us know how critical it is to include the community in the movement for gender equality.

It was incredible to hear these and other women speak. In the words of Diana Abdel-Rahman, who represented Canberra’s multicultural community at the march:

We are not interested in a feminism which disregards the voices and experiences and struggles of the unrepresented minority.

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