Page 734 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 8 March 2005

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We must be committed to our objectives—the full and equal participation of women in political and economic processes—and must act for their realisation. The launch of the ACT women’s plan by Minister Katy Gallagher last year set out a program of change to enhance the lives of women in the ACT, and an action plan to realise those objectives. This is a process and one that we must maintain our engagement with and our unerring commitment to.

And we must be involved. Participation in the organising and activism of our community is the only way to recognise the acts of courage and determination that personify community involvement for social change. Today is an opportunity to recognise the enormous contribution of women to our community through the entirety of their participation—in the paid and non-paid work force, in community organisations, unions and businesses, and in government. More than that, however, today is an opportunity to recognise the importance of continuing the struggle for equality and fairness, to take it beyond the recognition of formal rights and towards the realisation of real ones.

International Women’s Day

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (4.44): I have been pipped at the post about International Women’s Day—and by a man no less. However, I am going to stress the “international” in International Women’s Day, so I assure you I will not be repeating Mr Gentleman’s speech.

On International Women’s Day in Kuwait, women rallied outside the all-male National Assembly, demanding their political rights. Inside, the members considered whether to grant them. Today at the UNIFEM lunch a speaker from the Solomon Islands said that there has only ever been one woman in their parliament, and at present there are none. In Australia it could be said that we have won this battle in that we have women here—I am here—although women in the Liberal and Labor parties in some jurisdictions still have to fight their male colleagues for preselection in winnable seats.

While International Women’s Day is always significant to women, this one is especially so since it is the year of the 10-year review of the Beijing Platform for Action. The world has changed since 1995 when wording was adopted in the Beijing Platform for Action that recognised women’s rights to reproductive health. We got a taste of the change in the world at the five-year review in 2000 when the so-called “religious right” intimidated women in the United Nations corridors in New York. Nonetheless, in the year 2000 the world’s governments held the line.

This year’s Commission on the Status of Women, at its 49th session which began on 28 February in New York, has considered a short statement affirming the world’s governments’ commitment to the Beijing Platform for Action. In different times there would have been a full-blown global conference, as there was in Beijing in 1995, with thousands of people from NGOs travelling there. But the United Nations’s consultation with women’s organisations prior to this one revealed that they were very concerned about providing any opportunity for the entire platform for action to be reopened.

The US government, which has showed its dominance in almost every field of global negotiation, has also shown its desire to roll back women’s rights, both at home and in

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