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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 2 Hansard (6 March) . . Page.. 666 ..

MRS BURKE (continuing):

Mr Speaker, I am delighted to have been involved in many of the activities organised for International Women's Day.

MR PRATT (4.38): Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to welcome discussion of this matter of public importance and congratulate Ms MacDonald for having brought it on. The importance of International Women's Day, of course, is without question.

I would like to reflect for just a moment on the role of women in troubled Third World countries that I have been to. I certainly will not drag the Iraqi war into this discussion today by focusing per se on the Iraqi Kurdish widows issues that I have talked about before-I will talk about the case loads of other women that I have worked with around the world.

To give this subject, I suppose, a bit more international flavour, I will talk generally about the role of women in conflict zones around the world where I have had the great privilege to work and to see communities do marvellous things to try and come to grips with chaos. I talk about Yemeni, Jordanian, Sudanese, Hutu, Tutsi, Bosnian and Kosova women whom I have seen living in extremely difficult circumstances. I will say this: all of the case loads of all of those women groups around the world have something in common-they were a catalyst in their communities for resolving conflict. So whilst they were mightily suppressed in their dreadful patriarchal societies, they were in fact the cement in keeping the remnants of their societies together. I would like to raise that as an issue that we should commemorate today as we celebrate International Women's Day.

I will conclude by saying that in those same dreadful places-in dusty, muddy, cold, hot, jungly and deserty places-the most effective international aid program officers I had working with me were women. They just happened to bring with them that extra touch of finesse in tense environments. So I reflect on those issues as we today mark International Women's Day.

MS TUCKER (4.40): In speaking on this matter of public importance today I would like to highlight the impact of war on women and the important role of women in obtaining a peaceful resolution of conflict and the avoidance of war. But first, I will quickly cover the history of the International Women's Day.

The idea of an international women's day first arose at the beginning of the 20th century, which in the industrialised world was a period of expansion and turbulence, booming population growth and radical ideologies. In accordance with the declaration by the Socialist Party of America, the first national women's day was observed across the United States on 28 February 1909. In 1910 the Socialist International established a women's day, international in character, to honour the movement for women's rights and to assist in achieving universal suffrage for women.

From these early beginnings we now have International Women's Day on 8 March each year, which is marked by women's groups around the world. It marks a tradition that represents at least nine decades of struggle for equality, justice, peace and development, and there is still a struggle for equality, justice, peace and development in very many countries around the world.

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