Australia welcomes the opportunity to participate with other member states at this year’s session of the Commission on the Status of Women to further progress the commitments to women in the Beijing Platform for Action and the Beijing Plus Five Outcomes Document.
The Commission has a vital role to play in reviewing the implementation of international standards on women’s human rights and equality of women. We look forward to sharing best practices and lessons learned in implementing Beijing commitments, and exchanging views and perspectives on how we can deliver real improvements in the lives of women and girls around the world.
The Australian Government is strongly committed to achieving gender equality and continues to support and develop innovative measures to achieve this. Women and girls in Australia continue to make steady progress in many fields including in education, training, employment, politics and decision-making. Details of these achievements are outlined in an attachment to the written text of my statement.
Let me first of all talk about the theme - Women’s equal role in conflict prevention, management and resolution and post-conflict peace-building. The Australian Government acknowledges the significant contributions that many women have made to peace-building and conflict resolution, especially through their informal work in local communities. It is committed to increasing women’s involvement particularly in formal mechanisms. Many women want to participate in formal arenas but face barriers in the form of customs, traditions and stereotypes which are often indirect and difficult to address. Concerted efforts are needed by the international community to help overcome these obstacles and enable women to participate in decision-making and leadership positions.
The Australian Government is strongly committed to the increased participation of women in all peace processes. We have actively supported post-conflict peace-building programs in the Solomon Islands and Bougainville, which have ensured women’s involvement in peace processes. Australia’s statement to the United Nations on the third anniversary of the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1325 called for enhanced efforts by all member states and the international community to achieve real improvements for women. Increasing the visible participation of women in formal peace processes, such as in peace-keeping forces and as representatives of international bodies, provides important role modelling and confidence building opportunities for local women. The Government believes that increasing women’s participation will also help address the human rights violations, including sexual violence, people trafficking and systematic rape, that many women experience during times of conflict.
The second theme of this meeting - The role of men and boys in gender equality - is an important issue for Australia. Our government recognises that men and boys play a vital role in addressing gender equality. Australia is proud to have had Dr Robert Connell - an internationally renowned expert in the area of men and gender equality - participate in the Commission’s panel discussions on this theme.
Increasing men’s involvement in the change process towards gender equality is a critical step in tackling entrenched gender stereotypes and roles and eliminating discrimination and violence from the lives of women and girls, and is a significant challenge for all governments, the international community and local communities. It is important that men be encouraged to be involved in tackling gender equality – not only as political leaders, employers, teachers, lawyers and journalists – but also as fathers, brothers, partners, carers, colleagues and peers. More work is needed through education and socialisation to tackle entrenched attitudes and behaviours towards women and girls and strategies need to be evaluated and best practices shared more widely.
Let me turn to a topic that has been raised several times at this meeting – trafficking, which is one of the most heinous forms of violence against women. The Australian Government is committed to combating trafficking in Australia, including by prosecuting traffickers and supporting victims. In October 2003 the Government pledged more than $20 million over four years to a coordinated range of measures to combat trafficking, which include a Commonwealth Action Plan to Eradicate Trafficking in Persons; comprehensive victim support measures for women in Australia and a program of reintegration for women to Southeast Asia; stronger legislation; and
ratification of the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.
This session of the Commission on the Status of Women is being convened at an important juncture. We will be commemorating next year the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the thirtieth anniversary of the First World Conference on Women. This year’s meeting therefore provides a valuable opportunity to consider how to best structure CSW’s work to maximise outcomes for next year’s commemoration and beyond.
It is my delegation’s view that too much time is spent at CSW in negotiations that have little policy impact. Not enough focus is given to sharing experiences among our experts, who are involved in practical implementation on the ground. The high-level roundtables and the experts dialogues have been valuable in reorientating CSW to facilitating such exchanges. But more needs to be done to focus CSW’s work on practical outcomes that can assist countries in implementing Beijing and Beijing plus five. In particular, we believe that next year’s session must provide an effective opportunity for high-level participants to exchange views on lessons learned; share best practice and identify obstacles and constraints in implementation. We look forward to engaging in discussions to identify innovative ways to improve our working methods.
The Australian Delegation looks forward to working with member states to develop practical approaches that will deliver lasting improvements for women. The Delegation is also keen to share further information about Australia’s best practices and to learn about other members’ strategies for achieving equality for women.
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AUSTRALIA’S ACHIEVEMENTS FOR WOMEN
Progress in gender equality in Australia
Some examples of women’s progress in fields including education, training, employment, politics and decision-making include:
- over 4.2 million women are engaged in paid employment in Australia, with 55.9 per cent of all working age females participating in the paid work force;
- 56.5 per cent of students commencing higher education courses in 2003 were female;
- a 400 per cent increase in New Apprenticeships for women between 1996 and 2002;
- the gender gap is closing between men’s and women’s earnings: women now earn 85.1 per cent of men’s full-time average ordinary time earnings (August 2003);
- women held 34 per cent of National Government Board positions in 2003;
- just over one quarter of Australian national-level parliamentarians are women (March 2003); and
- Indigenous women made up 30.9 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Regional Councillors in June 2003.
Women’s equal role in conflict prevention, management and resolution and post-conflict peace building
The Australian Government recognises that women in conflict and post-conflict situations have unique needs and is supporting women through a number of projects in our region.
In the Solomon Islands, the Community Peace and Restoration Fund promotes women’s roles in peace-building and conflict prevention. The fund promotes community development by providing direct assistance to communities to rebuild community level infrastructure, such as schools and health clinics. The fund also supports skills development, training workshops and women’s savings and income generation projects.
In Bougainville, the Australian aid program has supported Bougainvillean women’s efforts to participate in peace talks, including at the meeting on Nissan Island in November 2003 where ex-combatants made a commitment to destroy their weapons. Through funding of the Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency, a Women’s Forum was held in May 2003. More than 160 women discussed wide ranging issues and developed recommendations for future actions.
The Australian Government’s Pacific Regional Program is contributing to conflict prevention in the region through its support of the Vanuatu Women’s Centre. This Centre provides counselling, community and staff education and legal advocacy services to address issues of violence against women and children throughout Vanuatu.
As with countries around the world, women’s participation in Australian deployments in conflict zones has historically been very low. The first female in a police deployment was selected in the mid 1980s. Women are encouraged to participate in Australian defence forces and are participating at increasing levels. Women currently make up around 11 per cent of deployments in Iraq, East Timor and the Soloman Islands and 33 per cent of the 12 Australian Federal Police members selected for the first deployment to Bougainville.
The role of men and boys in gender equality
The Australian Government supports a wide range of initiatives to increase men’s involvement in gender equality.
The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency works with employers to change attitudes of businesses to the employment of women. The Agency provides a range of educational and support activities to businesses, including workshops and workplace analysis and branding tools to assist employers to provide equal opportunity outcomes for women. Male senior executives have been recipients of awards for equal opportunity excellence.
The Partnerships Against Domestic Violence initiative (a $50 million commitment over six years) includes a number of projects working with male perpetrators of violence, through techniques such as mentoring and early intervention and support in crisis. One such project, A Business Approach, works with businesses to change attitudes in the workplace by encouraging businesses to adopt policies which support staff who may be experiencing domestic violence.
The Men and Family Relationships Program targets men to provide them with an opportunity to reflect, articulate and act on their aspirations as fathers and partners to improve family relationship outcomes for families. The program provides both relationship assistance and parenting programs that seek to work alongside men to improve outcomes for all family members; fathers, mothers and children. It funds services to adolescents and adults including mediation skills, family therapy, family relationships education and skills training as well as a number of specialised family violence initiatives.
The Government supports community education activities to raise awareness of the responsibility of men and boys in ending violence against women and girls including International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Australia’s White Ribbon Campaign.
The Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre – funded by Australia’s aid program – provides training to Fiji’s police and men’s groups to challenge and change harmful attitudes and behaviour towards women and children.