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international women’s day: hopeful reflections for a feminist future

Image: D Sharon Pruitt

Image: D Sharon Pruitt

My niece, Ella, turns two on March 8 this year. I’m undeniably jealous that she gets to be born on International Women’s Day; but on the other hand, I get to share my birthday with the late Jeff Buckley, Isaac Hanson, RuPaul and Rachel McAdams, so I guess that can be my consolation prize.

Still, there’s nothing quite like knowing that, as she celebrates getting one year older every year, the whole world will be celebrating women along with her. As she will grow from being more excited about the wrapping paper than the presents inside into her formative, adolescent and young adult years, I hope that the world around her will grow as well. I thought that I would write this piece on what International Women’s Day means to me, through the knowledge that every year, in some form, it will be celebrated through a little girl.

As Ella turns two, the world for women has undeniably grown – no longer are women denied basic human rights, and, if they are, they are called upon and acted upon on the global scale until something changes. In Australia, she will be allowed to vote in political elections when she turns eighteen, she will have the right to an education for thirteen years of her life, she will be allowed to drive and she can get a job. Simultaneously, however, as she turns two, she is also growing up in a country which still needs to develop and grow up when it comes to the rights that she may need in the future. The right to choice – the choice of what she wants to do with her body, the choice of who she wants to be with or the choice of who she doesn’t want to be with. The right to equality – equality of pay distribution, equality of business hierarchies, equality of media representation, equality of civil rights. The right to freedom – freedom of expression, freedom of space, freedom from oppression, freedom from those who think that they know what she wants more than she does.

I hope that life and opportunities for Ella will grow as she grows. I hope that each year, as we celebrate her birthday, that we also have cause to celebrate a new liberation, a new change and a new growth that benefits all women, and not just a select group of women. I hope that, when the time comes that she is old enough to vote, that ‘women’s issues’ are not restricted to only childcare and maternity leave. I hope that the government, by then, will realise that women make up half of the population, and our needs are very diverse and different, and not all of us will need childcare or maternity leave. I hope that she will have the freedom to walk home from school in a few years’ time without feeling threatened or unsafe. I hope that, by the time that she is old enough to understand, that she will live in a society which values women as much as it values men.

Most of all, I just hope that she will be happy. That she will be happy in her own choices, and not the choices that society thinks that she should make. That she will have the opportunity to do whatever she wants to do.

I look to the years ahead with something of a sense of hope, as we watch Ella grow, as the world celebrates women on this day, I hope that the world of opportunity for women and girls opens even more each and every year. Happy International Women’s Day.

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