Scholars and alumni join UN Women Australia virtual events
Posted: 30 March 2021
In honour of International Women’s Day on 8 March, 30 Australia Awards scholars and alumni from South Asia had the opportunity to attend UN Women Australia’s virtual 2021 event to mark the occasion.
This year, the global theme for International Women’s Day was ‘Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world’. This theme, and the day’s celebrations, acknowledged the tremendous efforts of women and girls around the world in shaping an equal future and recovery from the global COVID-19 pandemic.
UN Women Australia has hosted the preeminent International Women’s Day events around Australia since 1990. This year it held events in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Perth. Due to COVID-19 attendance restrictions, a livestream of the five events was made available on a virtual platform, allowing the events to reach a significantly larger audience. Scholars and alumni from South Asia were able to access the events and the full program of speakers via a virtual hub that provided attendees with an interactive platform to watch the events live and to immerse themselves in UN Women stories and projects.
The keynote speech was delivered by the Australian of the Year, Grace Tame. Other notable speakers included Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon Marise Payne; Australian Indigenous Governance Institute Chief Executive Officer, Michelle Deshong; Australia’s Ambassador for Gender Equality, Julie-Ann Guivarra; and former Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner and founder of Male Champions of Change (now the Champions of Change Coalition), Elizabeth Broderick.
Australia Awards scholar Gayathri Pande from India was thankful for the opportunity to attend the event and was excited to hear the keynote address. “Grace Tame’s speech inspired me so much,” she exclaimed. “It was an amazing experience!”
Another scholar, Manisha Burlakoti from Nepal, also expressed her appreciation for getting a chance to attend “such a wonderful event virtually”. For Manisha, the most memorable part of the event was “the realisation that global gender equality is still 100 years away”. She added that it made her feel “more responsible for working towards gender equality as a woman of this generation”.
This year, the events were about embracing women in all their diversities, cultures and achievements. To this end, high-profile speakers and performers from across Australia shared their stories with attendees.
Australia Awards scholar Basma Abdul Muhsin from the Maldives thoroughly enjoyed the event and had a lot to report about her experience.
“Thank you [Australia Awards] for this opportunity to attend the UN Women Australia 2021 Virtual Event,” she said. “It was enlightening, thought-provoking and emotional.”
Basma found the parallels experienced by women in the Maldives and Australia to be eye-opening. “I was initially overwhelmed by the similarities of women’s issues discussed in an Australian platform to that of a developing country like the Maldives,” Basma shared. “I know women who are marginalised, discriminated against and harassed due to financial dependence, social and religious suppression, and lack of awareness.”
Basma said that she was able to relate to many of the speakers as they shared their accounts, and that it was a moving experience for her. “In countries like the Maldives there is the very real issue of normalising mistreatment and harassment of women at home and workplaces, victim blaming, politicising workplace harassment, and lack of adequate support and protection for victims,” she said. Basma believes that survivors’ stories, such as those shared at the International Women’s Day event, can give women hope and the courage to reach out for help.
“Listening to the powerful speeches was enlightening as it showed me what it meant to be a woman who makes a difference for the many women without a voice,” Basma added.
The speeches helped her reflect on the necessity of action to bring about change through policy changes, institutional restructuring and awareness creation. She has also shared her learnings from the event with family and friends. “I applauded the strength of these women,” she said. “I recalled experiences in my own life and of others I know, and I wanted to make a difference for the sake of my children.”
Scholars and alumni were invited to attend the UN Women event as part of Australia Awards – South Asia’s program of activities for International Women’s Day 2021. Read about other ways the Program celebrated scholars and alumni who are contributing to a more gender-equal world.
Image at top of the page: Scholar Basma Abdul Muhsin from the Maldives thoroughly enjoyed the UN Women Australia’s virtual events and had a lot to report about her experience