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IWD: Scholars consider the intersection of gender-based violence and gender equality

Posted: 7 March 2024

Mongolia, Nepal, Scholars Platform, Sri Lanka, In Australia, Scholar,

At the instigation of Nepali Australia Awards scholar Rakshya Risal, ahead of International Women’s Day (IWD) more than 30 Australia Awards scholars from South Asia and Mongolia met online to hear from a panel of expert speakers on the 2024 IWD theme of Invest in women: Accelerate progress

The Hon Mira EI Dannawi, a Member of the Legislative Council of South Australia, spoke about the state government’s commitment to addressing the gender pay gap, including through the establishment of a government taskforce, initiatives to increase women’s workforce participation, and putting a spotlight on women working in traditionally male-dominated industries. She highlighted how the government was embedding principles of gender equality in community sporting bodies and its work to criminalise coercive control.

Rabia Aftab, Program Facilitator at the Zahra Foundation, shared how women were disproportionately victims of violence. She noted that society needed to recharacterise how it viewed masculinity, saying “men should be powerhouses that create safe environments for women and children”. Rabia called for action from the men in attendance, saying, “Feminism is not just for women. Men need to understand us and stand with us. We should walk together and create change together”. She highlighted that stopping violence needed to start families, with parents supporting their children’s identities and resisting gender stereotypes. “Boys can be nurturing; girls can be in construction”, she said.

a screenshot captures 9 participants in 9 small squares from the Zoom interface

A screenshot taken during the online panel discussion

Navanita Bhattacharya, an expert on gender equality, highlighted that  “gender discrimination is more acute for minoritised groups that include Blak and Brown women and men, with diverse intersecting and marginalised identities.” She encouraged scholars to challenge ignorance and dominant knowledge, saying “No one should remain ignorant about oppression, discrimination and abuse.” She highlighted that rather than blaming entrenched systems or structures, and doing nothing to dismantle them, we needed to recognise that “humans are the ones that create systems”.

“If we want to challenge and change systems, we must be purposeful and intentional in our actions.”

Following a lively discussion and question and answer session facilitated by Rakshya, the Australia Awards – South Asia & Mongolia Advisor on Gender Equality, Disability and Social Inclusion, Anu Mundkur closed the event by sharing additional resources that scholars could access and practical steps scholars could take to assist in the pursuit of gender justice. 

Reflecting on the discussion, Mongolian scholar Sunder Erdenekhuyag said, “Change starts with individuals taking action in their everyday lives. By challenging stereotypes, promoting equal opportunities, sharing household responsibilities, and supporting gender-equal parenting, each of us can contribute to creating a more equitable and inclusive society.”

Sri Lankan scholar Tuan Mohammed Rushdi Cassim said, “The session was immensely valuable, especially as I’m considering focusing on a gender studies topic this semester. One highlight for me was the personal story shared by a panellist regarding her 90-year-old grandmother. It was inspiring to hear how her grandmother could challenge and change her long-held beliefs and update her knowledge. This story resonated with me deeply and reinforced my belief that it is never too late to learn and grow.

“The session has spurred me to further develop my critical thinking skills, particularly in questioning assumptions. As a student of disability studies, I am motivated to explore and advocate for the intersection of gender and disability, aiming to promote inclusivity.”

Similar views were expressed by Nepali scholar Amrit Pokhrel, who said, “I truly appreciated the chance to be part of an event that so perfectly aligned with its theme: Count Her In: Invest in Women, Accelerate Progress. The moderator’s insightful questions and the panelists’ enriching responses, drawn from their extensive experience and knowledge, made for an engaging and thought-provoking discussion.”

“One of the main takeaways for me from the event was the importance of embedding inclusivity within everyone, without question or hesitation. This resonated deeply with me and will undoubtedly influence my approach to the mental health programs I am planning to initiate in Nepal upon my return.”

Summarising her views following after organising and facilitating the panel discussion, Rakshya said, “Gender equality and social inclusion is the cross-cutting issue that should underpin every scholars’ pursuit, regardless of their academic discipline. Mainstreaming the voices of women, girls, and marginalised communities for equal access and opportunities in every stage of development fosters community change and also drives societal progress.”

“It is crucial for scholars to challenge existing gender stereotypes and internalised biases, ensuring that the voices of all individuals, particularly those who are marginalised, are not just heard but valued”.