2018 What Matters? NSW/ACT Year 5/6 Winner
SASHA VAN ONSELEN
Women's rights matter to me because I want to grow up having the same rights as men. I don't want to feel that I am prevented from reaching my potential because of unfair treatment just because I am a woman. Consider the following scenario: She works day and night putting all her effort into one job, but he still gets more. She puts all of herself in her job when he does no more than her, but he gets the pay rise. Women on average earn 15.3% less than men. When she finds out she is pregnant it should be a time of great joy in her life, and it is. But she is also worried that her male boss won't be understanding: about the time she will need off to care for her new born baby. Every day thousands of women worry they will end up in a lower paid job or even fired, just because they had a baby. This is despite laws saying that can't happen. It does happen and it is not fair.
We need to find a way to fix the unfair imbalances between men and women in our society. The only way that will happen is if women campaign for their rights, and men also recognise the need to support the women in their lives who just want fairness and equality. To be sure, there are lots of famous and inspiring women throughout history, and today we see women leading countries and large private organisations. However, as inspiring as individual success stories are for young girls, there is no escaping the fact that it is harder for a woman to reach the top of her profession than it is for a man. For example, Australia, has been a federated nation since 1901, yet we have only had one female PM (Julia Gillard 2010-2013). The only way women are going to get an equal chance to shine as men is if more women get more opportunities.
Quotas and targets, which increase the percentage of women in particular jobs, are the best way to ensure women get a fair go and cultural prejudices are overcome. People who claim quotas and targets get in the road of merit misunderstand what merit exactly means. Is it right that only 13 of the 76 lower house members of the government are women? Given that women make up 50 per cent of the population that is unacceptable. A quota or target - guaranteeing a minimum number of women take up positions in parliament - would overcome discrimination which prevents them being judged on their abilities. The opposition has 46 per cent women in its parliamentary ranks because it uses a quota system.
"Male champions for change" is a group of men in positions of power who campaign for women's rights: better pay and more women in senior roles. While it is important that women campaign for better rights, men supporting equality is also very important. For the sake of their wives, daughters and sisters.
Australia was once one of the world's leading nations championing women's rights. South Australia was the first state to grant women the right to vote. As a country, we were second only to New Zealand giving women the vote. But in more recent years debates about how to ensure equal pay and equal opportunities has been damaged by arguments between the major parties, turning the women's rights debate into a "culture war" between political parties. I hope that women's rights become an issue all Australians, irrespective of their views on other issues, can unite around and believe in.
In conclusion, women have been denied equal rights to men for centuries, and despite improvements in recent years there is still a long way to go. Half the population deserves access to half the opportunities on offer.