Written by Susan Biggs, Chief Executive Officer of The ISIS Foundation
I went to a very inspiring International Women’s Day breakfast this morning and became reinvigorated about the fight for women’s rights and equality. Today, we celebrate the outstanding economic, political and social achievements of women throughout the world. However, today is an occasion to not only reflect on how far women have come in the struggle for equality, peace and development, but is also an opportunity for women across the globe to unite, network and mobilise for meaningful change. We still have a way to go in every country, but especially in the developing world.
At ISIS, we are proud to be part of a global community. We have offices around the world in Australia, the US, Nepal and Uganda, and many of our projects focus on the development of girls and women. The challenges that women face every day in rural and remote communities in Nepal and Uganda inform the basis of our work, and we strive to work hand in hand with these communities to improve their lives through health, education and other essential services.
In Uganda, the average life expectancy at birth for a woman is just 54 years old and 16 women die during childbirth every day. The ISIS Foundation is committed to working with local medical staff and communities to improve these deplorable statistics through maternal, infant and child healthcare programmes at Kiwoko Hospital. In 2012 alone, the Kiwoko Hospital maternity ward provided treatment to 6,000 mums.
In Nepal, ISIS supports a myriad of programmes to improve the lives of women. One such programme is our partnership with the Women’s Foundation, who provide pro-bono legal support to women and girls who are victims of domestic violence (and cannot afford to pay for legal assistance). A team of experienced staff are led by an ISIS supported lawyer to get justice for hundreds of women and girls each year.
As a woman who was born and raised in Australia, I am extremely fortunate to have never lived through the challenges that many women in Nepal and Uganda face every day. I gave birth in a high quality hospital with talented medical staff and never had to walk miles upon miles to access clean water or food. I feel incredibly grateful for the opportunities and privileges that come with being born in a prosperous country like Australia.
However, despite the great strides in gender equality we have made in Australia and many other developed countries, there is still significant progress to be made. As the Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard highlighted in her much publicised speech on misogyny; there are still many barriers women face. The Australian Bureau of Statistics released a report in May 2011 which shows that across Australia, women’s average full-time weekly earnings are now 17.2% less than men’s, and this pay gap is increasing. Worse than that, for many women home is a place of pain and humiliation, as violence against women by their male partners is wide-spread and far-reaching in its impact. Research shows that one in three women in Australia has experienced physical violence at some time since the age of 15, for too long hidden behind closed doors and avoided in public discourse.
The fight to end the oppression of women and girls worldwide is a defining struggle of our current century, just as slavery was of the 19th century and totalitarianism of the 20th. We at ISIS are proud to be contributing real, meaningful solutions to create a better future for the girls and women we work with in Nepal and Uganda. If you wish to get involved with ISIS’ work, please consider joining our ‘Live Below the Line’ campaign. We have joined LBL to raise awareness of the plight of people in poverty throughout the world, the vast majority of whom are women.
Here are some of the incredible girls and women we work with