- ABOUT SAY NO
- AROUND THE WORLD
- THE ISSUE
- TAKE ACTION
by ILONA NICOLA
My education and employment history reads like a patchwork quilt. I have a bachelor’s degree in Physiotherapy from the University of Melbourne; it is a focused degree, in which I have moulded to carry me around the globe in various occupations. Yet through the course of my career, I have never wavered in my desire to make a difference. I have a strong interest in Aboriginal affairs, human rights, and women’s rights – particularly for vulnerable and minority groups.
I currently work for the Victorian Government. My work is diverse, but centres on policy development to ensure high quality and safe maternal and neonatal care for women and their babies.
I have a keen interest in journalism. I hope to undertake further study as a platform for a career in campaigning for improved health and social outcomes for disadvantaged and vulnerable groups locally and internationally.
Gender Equality in my Community
Unfortunately, when I consider gender equality in my community, my mind turns to inequality.
Two main types of gender inequality immediately stand out: inequality between men and women generally, but also, inequality between women of different ethnicities and vulnerabilities.
Recently, at a woman’s leadership forum, the South Australian Liberal Party Leader Isobel Redmond proclaimed that women facing bias on gender grounds in the workplace should "..just try to ignore the discrimination…and I think you'll find gradually the discrimination will disappear."
Redmond’s message is disappointing. Women, who are discriminated against no matter how hard they work, will not simply prevail. Discrimination for women will not simply disappear. Discrimination is failure to recognise a person's worth and grows from poor recognition of difference.
Babies born to Aboriginal women in Australia are twice more likely to be of low birth weight than those born to non-Aboriginal women. Mothers in deprived socio-economic conditions frequently have low birth weight babies. In these settings, the baby’s low birth weight stems primarily from the mother’s poor nutrition and health over a long period of time, including during pregnancy.
Every year, over 4,000 people from refugee backgrounds settle in Victoria. Women from refugee backgrounds are vulnerable to poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes. Lower health literacy, limited preventative health care prior to migration, gender and sexual based violence, such as rape and sexual slavery, marrying and having sex at a young age, and female genital mutilation are some challenges faced by these women.
Improving the health and social outcomes of these women and others, who face the challenge of being recognised, and of receiving the support and care they need, involves a multifaceted approach. However, improvements will not be possible until we acknowledge their challenges, overcome the discrimination, and recognise their plight.
Difference, whether on the grounds of gender, age or race should be embraced. The unique circumstances of Aboriginal women, refugee women, and other vulnerable groups should be embraced.
Gender equality is only possible once difference is recognised and embraced.