From the Director of Student Wellbeing

lnternational Women’s Day Assembly: Be Bold for Change

The Senior School ‘lnternational Women’s Day’ Assembly showed that St Catherine’s girls are passionate about meeting the challenge set by this year’s theme: ‘Be Bold for Change.’ A group of Year 10 students questioned the gender gap, promoted women’s education and celebrated women’s achievements. Purple ribbons, symbolising justice and dignity, were given to each girl as they entered the Hall.

Emily Sutherland discussed the gender pay gap and the lack of female representation in certain areas such as politics and education. She explained that ‘men in Australia still earn an average of 18.2% more than women’ and that ‘globally only 47% of women have an account at a formal financial institution’. Emily shared her surprise that in the global political sphere, ‘women make up only 23% of parliaments and that only 7.8% of Nations have a female head of government’. Emily quoted Elizabeth Shaw, the Australian UN Women’s President, who said, “The economic empowerment and political participation of women will improve the lives of millions across the globe.” Emily called on the girls to wear their purple ribbons with pride, and to strive to empower the women around them.

The need to champion education for girls and women was emphasised by Hope Kudelka. She shared the confronting statistic that ‘63% of the world’s illiterate population are women’ and that ‘among illiterate adults, there are twice as many women than there are men’. Hope invited the girls to consider the fact that ‘right now there are more than 66 million girls not attending School’. She explained that ‘education provides girls with the ability to break this cycle, as well as the cycle of poverty, because when a girl has one extra year of education she can earn 20% more as an adult’. She added that ‘girls with an education are less likely to marry early and against their will, less likely to die due to childbirth and more likely to send their children to School’.

Chloe Manson urged the girls to celebrate women’s achievements across the world, ‘whether it be Malala standing up for women’s educational rights, Cathy Freeman becoming the first female indigenous Olympic gold medallist, Hilary Clinton, the first female major party nominee to seek the US Presidency, or simply girls like you and me’. She invited the girls to mark International Women’s Day by taking the time to acknowledge their every accomplishment, as well as recognising the accomplishments of those around them.

Eve Rayner reminded the girls that it is up to them to ‘commence the change that is needed in our society’. She encouraged the girls to ‘be bold for change’, saying ‘it is up to us; today’s young women as the adults of the future, to break the barriers imposed on women and girls for centuries’. She encouraged her peers to have self-respect and to make wise choices and asked them to opt out of using language that demeans women. Her inspirational advice to the girls was, ‘When you see someone making the choice to follow their own path, celebrate her strength, do not put her down; be a voice for the marginalised and downtrodden. Be the best woman; be the best human you can be.’
Eve summarised by saying that by diminishing the gender gap; by championing the education of women; by celebrating each other’s achievements and the achievements of women across so many cultures and ages, we can all contribute to the ongoing improvement of the conditions for women. Her final call to action: ‘By being bold and standing up for what you believe: the voices of women will be heard, and this will mark one step closer to the dream of equality for all,’ was met with resounding applause.

Guest speaker, Associate Professor Bre-Anne Sainsbury, Director of Resources Engineering at Monash University followed with a speech about her role in a male dominated industry. She shared her experiences in the engineering, mining and renewable’s industry. Professor Sainsbury has worked as a consultant and operational engineer at mine sites, refineries and at renewable energy projects in Australia and the USA. During her career, she has had many international positions in the USA, South Africa, DR Congo, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Philippines, PNG, Indonesia, Mongolia and Sweden. She urged the girls to look beyond what might be considered ‘normal’ academic and career choices, to take on new challenges and to believe in their own potential.

Both Bre-Anne’s presentation and the girls’ speeches have inspired us all to act boldly to give our girls the future they deserve on equal terms.

Ms Merran O'Connor, Director of Student Wellbeing