Celebrating International Women’s Day 2019 through Voices for Change

7 March 2019

Jazmeen Payne

Jazmeen is the Communications and Events Coordinator at YWCA Canberra.

Our 2019 International Women’s Day event was held at the ACT Legislative Assembly on Wednesday 6 March.

The event marked the launch of Voices for Change, a collaborative media project between DVCS and YWCA Canberra, that works with women (Advocates) who have experienced family and domestic violence. Voices for Change aims to draw attention to gender-based violence in our community.

In November last year, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime released a ground-breaking survey that revealed 58 per cent of all women and girls killed around the world, in the space of one year, died at their hands of a family member or intimate partner.

We know that gender inequality is a core factor in domestic and family violence and how individuals and communities respond to it. However, we also know that gender inequality, as a pervasive social affliction, is not simply a women’s issue for women to fix. All of us have a role to play in eliminating domestic and family violence.

Throughout the International Women’s Day event it was emphasised that by showcasing and amplifying the voices of women who have experienced family and domestic violence, we are able to directly take on the responsibility of working together as a community to address this widespread issue in Australia.

The event commenced with a heartfelt Welcome to Country by Ngunnawal Elder, Aunty Violet. Aunty Violet commented on her empathy toward the Advocates and her admiration for their participation in Voices for Change.

This was followed by introductions and acknowledgements from both the CEO of YWCA Canberra, Frances Crimmins and the CEO of DVCS, Mirjana Wilson. Both Frances and Mirjana highlighted how vital projects like Voices for Change are vital for challenging social norms and creating meaningful and long-lasting change.

The MC for the morning, Genevieve Jacobs then announced the highly anticipated screening of the Voices for Change film and we were able to listen to the lived experiences of the Advocates.

Through the Advocates, we learned that men must be allies in this space if there is to be a positive change, because women who experience violence are most likely to experience it in private at the hands of a man, who is their current or former partner.

We must also systematically challenge the social norms that lead to higher rates of violence against women, including condoning violence against women, controlling women’s decision making, expecting people to conform to rigid gender stereotypes and engaging in male peer relationships that emphasise aggression and disrespect towards women.

After the film concluded a panel discussion and Q&A session was held, facilitated by Genevieve and featuring some of the film’s Advocates. Through the discussion, the Advocates were able to further share their insight into the nature of domestic and family violence and the role media and community can play in shifting the current narrative.

The panel of Advocates concluded the event by telling us that there is a place for everyone on this journey toward eliminating violence against women. This may be in our roles as partners, parents, teachers, coaches, friends, media consumers, journalists, social-media users, law-makers, policy makers and first responders, but ultimately, this is a community issue that requires a community response.

The Voices for Change project calls on us all to be part of the solution. We must not only amplify the voices of women who have experienced domestic violence but we must also work collectively to advocate for change in how communities respond to domestic and family violence, as well as gender inequality more broadly.

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