Six decades of a collective voice for women

Six decades of a collective voice for women

Every March, VIEW club members around Australia join with others in events to celebrate International Women's Day (March 8).

Across the world, IWD celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women - while also marking a call to action to accelerate gender balance.

The 2020 global IWD campaign theme is #EachForEqual, drawn from a notion of "collective individualism".

As the IWD website points out, we are each one, part of a whole.

Our individual actions, conversations, behaviours and mindsets can have an impact on our larger society.

Collectively, we can make change happen. Collectively, we can each help create a gender equal world.

VIEW, a 15,000-strong national women's volunteer organisation, is a prime example of collective individualism - each VIEW member contributes her talent and energy to the goal we share.

In this instance, as we celebrate IWD, that goal is gender equality.

This year, our focus will also be on VIEW's 60th anniversary, and the six decades of strength and support VIEW members have provided to The Smith Family and its various causes.

In the early days this support was welfare based - collecting clothing, blankets and food, raising funds and raising awareness.

However, as The Smith Family has evolved, so too has VIEW. Today, collectively, our members are the largest community sponsor of students on The Smith Family's Learning for Life program, supporting the education of more than 1400 disadvantaged Australian children and young people.

It's an exciting time to be part of VIEW.

We will also celebrate the spirit of independence that gave rise to the need for change in 1960 which led to VIEW's formation.

Just think back to what was happening at that time. Women were expected - in some instances, forced - to leave the workforce when they married, and then lived at home in the suburbs with their children.

They didn't have the opportunity to enjoy adult company or further education, and most didn't pursue higher education.

It was a satisfying lifestyle for some women, but not fulfilling for very many.

There were few career options for women - a nurse, secretary or a teacher, perhaps.

It was difficult to have a professional life outside the family, and to do so was often frowned upon.

VIEW was formed because women wanted more from life - they wanted more options. They desired to open their minds, to have a collective voice and to be heard. Collective individualism.

This year, VIEW will reflect on how amazing and how courageous these founding VIEW women were.

We will celebrate their achievements and the fact that women of that era went far beyond what was expected of them.

As a society, we have made small steps, but there remains some hard facts.

Sadly, most poor people in the world are women, and Australia is no exception.

Women keep the wheels of society rolling along, yet many are forced to retire into poverty because of the structural discrimination they face.

They have often worked part-time or been in and out of the workforce raising children, resulting in a lack of superannuation.

Many end up homeless and in poverty, despite having worked a good part of their life.

This is the new poor.

At its heart is the simple fact that women do the lion's share of caring for others.

Caring is considered women's work, and our society does not value enough the work that women do.

Women must be vigilant, especially on the gender pay gap.

They need to be alert to, and aware of, the current state of affairs.

As the world changes and as waves come in and attempt to diminish the hard-fought progress for women that's already achieved, we need to keep these issues at the forefront of our minds and make sure we voice them to our governments at every opportunity.

Just because there are laws now does not mean they are forever sacrosanct.

There are always attempts to diminish rights so, more than ever before, women need to keep these issues alive. They are too important, they need to be maintained.

Since the organisation's founding, VIEW members have maintained a strong and powerful voice, speaking up through many and varied resolutions about issues of importance to women.

For many years now, VIEW's campaign to reduce violence against women has been a high priority.

Our three current resolutions, which were debated and voted on at VIEW National Convention 2019, are no less important:

  • Reducing childhood poverty, because there is an urgent need to tackle child poverty in Australia
  • Social and affordable housing for women
  • Wage parity, because it's about time!

As women, we need to keep sight of the power of our collective voice; by raising our voices, we insist on being heard.

Women have to fulfil their potential as human beings and as citizens.

By doing this, we honour our forebears of 60 years ago and embrace the spirit of change that energised them, and those who came after them.

Collectively, each one of us - man or woman - can help create a gender equal world.

Equality is not a women's issue, it's a business issue.

Gender equality is essential for economies and communities to thrive.

A gender equal world can be healthier, wealthier and more harmonious.

The race is on for the gender equal boardroom, government, media and workplace, as well as more gender equality in health and wealth.

So, let's make it happen!

Anne-Louise O'Connor is national president of VIEW Clubs of Australia. For more details, including how to join a club near you, visit www.view.org.au