IWD 2018: ‘There’s still a hell of a lot to fight for’

A big turnout for this year’s march. All pictures: Jacqueline Ho

By JACQUELINE HO

 In the year of #MeToo and Time’s Up, March 8 kept the spotlight on Australian women calling for change at this year’s International Women’s Day Rally in Melbourne.

Colourful outfits, hand-painted “Girl Power” signs and rallying cheers could be seen and heard from the State Library of Victoria yesterday.

As with every year, turnout was huge as people of all genders and walks of life came together to advocate for women’s rights.

However, this year’s attendees seemed even more ready for change.

“The energy is different, more urgent and electric,” women’s march regular Vanessa Clothier said. 

“People are certainly angry.”

Chants and “boos!” could be heard when Maritime Union of Australia national women’s liaison officer Mich-Elle Myers spoke about the growing gender pay gap in Australia.

The crowd’s volume grew louder when the topic turned to the closure of Tasmania’s last abortion clinic in January.

The exposure of famous Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuse of multiple women, and the revelations of abuse by other high profile men in Hollywood that followed, was also a main focus of this year’s rally.

Student activist Yasemin Shamsili speaking at Parliament House.

“It’s shameful that it took a handful of celebrities and a hashtag for the public to finally start talking about the problems women have faced for years and years,” Ms Myers said. 

“We are here today to celebrate how far we’ve come, and to continue to fight against sexism and to fight for women’s rights, because there’s still a hell of a lot to fight for.”

This year’s International Women’s Day campaign theme – #PressforProgress –  shone a spotlight on gender parity, with an emphasis on gender inclusivity and new gender parity initiatives.

The theme offered an important reminder that women are more than 200 years away from gender parity according to the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report.

“Now, more than ever, there’s a strong call to action to press forward and progress gender parity. A strong call to #PressforProgress. A strong call to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive,” the IWD website said.

“So together, let’s all be tenacious in accelerating gender parity. Collectively, let’s all Press for Progress.”

All trams were stopped and roads were cleared as the march went from the State Library, halting at Bourke St and continuing up to Parliament, where the rally ended.

VOICES FROM THE MARCH

Korean language teacher Mina Jung. 

Q: As a Korean woman who emigrated to Australia, where do you think women stand in society right now?

A: Generally speaking, women are behind in every standard compared to men. In South Korea, it is even worse, but women just take it because we were brought up that way. No more, it’s time to come together, to walk together, to speak out. First, we need to listen to sexual harassment victims, and then we need to work on getting equal pay, which I can’t believe we haven’t gotten yet. I hope we can make a difference for our daughters.  

University of Melbourne student Elliot Hough. 

Q: What do you think of the Time’s Up campaign?

A: It’s a step in the right direction, I think it’s disgusting that predators like Harvey Weinstein have been allowed to roam free for so long. But it’s not enough. It’s just the tip of the iceberg. We need to do more to prevent such things from even happening in the first place. That being said, we definitely needed this purge, not just from Hollywood but more importantly from our workplaces and other close environments.

Longtime feminist campaigner Janett McInnas.

Q: What changes have you seen since the first time you’ve campaigned for women’s rights since 1977? Is society where you’d like it to be yet?

A: Men were very angry during my time. They would have shut down a movement like this. My mother was a very early feminist, she was very steadfast in her beliefs and encouraged me to stand up for whatever I believed in, too. I think now people are more aware and more empathic towards women, but change needs to happen faster. I have three granddaughters and would like to see them grow up in a world that supports women as much as it supports men.