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Shivani Gopal

Shivani Gopal

August 14, 2022
| Womens Advocacy

Founder’s Weekly | 21st August 2020

Here's what you need to know this week on women in the world...




Michelle Obama speaks out

Many of you will have heard Michelle Obama’s incredibly moving and rousing speech a few days ago. Just when we thought we couldn’t love her more, this powerful black woman, for the first time, chose to speak out against the POTUS. Speaking in a straightforward manner, she did not mince words when it came to describing Trump.

“Let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can. Donald Trump is the wrong President for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us.”

She acknowledged that America was currently a deeply divided country, but did not let that stop her from urging her listeners to act. Accusing Trump and other administration officials of closing polling places and hindering the US Postal Service in an attempt to suppress Democratic votes, she encouraged voters to take a stand:

"We've got to vote early, in person if we can. We've got to request our mail-in ballots right now, tonight, and send them back immediately and follow up to make sure they're received. And then, make sure our friends and families do the same. We have got to grab our comfortable shoes, put on our masks, pack a brown bag dinner and maybe breakfast too, because we've got to be willing to stand in line all night if we have to."

It goes without saying that Michelle Obama is a remarkable woman and leader of people, and I find strength and confidence in hearing her voice stand out amongst the ongoing chaos. Here’s to you Michelle! 

100th anniversary of the Suffragette Movement

Two days ago, the US marked the 100th anniversary for the women’s suffrage. On August 18, 2019, the American Constitution was amended to state that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

On the surface, it may look like this amendment gave women the right to vote. However, during a time when racial tensions throughout the country are high, it’s important to recognise that this change was largely implemented for white women. For many decades afterwards, women of colour were still prevented from voting with measures like literacy tests, poll taxes, intimidation and racism, and laws that prevented the grandchildren of slaves from voting.

When we think of how far women have come since 1920, I’d also like us to take a moment to examine the challenges faced by women of colour in African American, Latin, Asian and other communities in America. While our ancestral mothers and sisters have done much to fight for change, and we have seen progress worth celebrating, the fight is not yet over. Women of all colours and races must take up the torch and carry on fighting for change and equality - now, more than ever. Be armed with this knowledge, remarkable women, and keep fighting and leading the way to a truly equal world. 

Annabel Bassil stands against harassment

A slap on the ass, a quick squeeze of our breasts, a hand resting too far down your back… these are actions that every woman has experienced. Unwanted attention from a man who thinks that our body is there to be grabbed and ogled at.

Last year, when she was working at the pub, bar manager Annabel Bassil was smacked on the bottom by a male patron as she walked past. After the man assaulted her, Bassil told him he couldn't do that. His response? “Oh, it's fine, I've got a wife. I'm just having fun.” To him, it was justified.

Now unfortunately, this is an experience that will sound all too familiar to many of the women reading this. 

However, this time, Ms Bassil decided to stand up. The incident was caught on CCTV footage, the man was thrown out of the bar, the police were called, and she filed a formal complaint. 

Once in court, however, she was questioned about her height and what she was wearing. I’d just like to ask how any of that is relevant.

Since then, the man has pled guilty to common assault. And, although there was no conviction or sentence, Ms Bassil says she got the result she wanted, with the man feeling remorseful and recognising his actions were wrong.  

However, the fact is that it shouldn’t take a court case for a man to realise that it’s not ok to touch a woman without her consent. As Bassil herself said:

"No-one has the right to touch anyone at all. Full stop. There are no exceptions. I could pour you a thousand beers, and it does not mean anything."

I’d like to celebrate Ms Bassil for setting a powerful example and for calling out the uncomfortable wrongs that are often laughed away for the sake of someone else’s comfort. May we all lean into discomfort when it comes to the greater good and respecting our own basic human rights!

AMP Capital needs to take a stand against harassment

Some of you may remember that a few weeks ago, I spoke about how Pahari was promoted to become the head of AMP’s Capital Division, despite having been found guilty of sexually harassing a female staff member (Szlakowski). I spoke about how the Board fully knew all of this, yet chose to proceed with his promotion. A decision that truly irks me. 

I am pleased to announce that both politicians and investors are now finally expressing their concerns of this action and calling for the resignation of both Pahari and chairman, David Murray (especially as AMP’s shares continue to fall). 

Australian Council of Superannuation Investors CEO, Louise Davidson, has stated: "I can't see how his position as CEO is tenable. It concerns me particularly that the company has tried to downplay the seriousness of the sexual harassment [allegations]." To which we couldn’t agree more!

Meanwhile, Vas Kolesnikoff, head of research for proxy advisory firm ISS, has stated that AMP’s inability to handle the issue could lead to staff departures and customers taking their business elsewhere. “It would seem there is only one real option – he’s going to have to leave. Culture is everything, it’s behaviour, it’s accountability. If you want to address culture, you have to address accountability."

Whether AMP will take action remains to be seen, but I believe that Szlakowski put it best:

"Now AMP has two choices: it can continue to downplay a credible sexual harassment complaint, which impugns all survivors, or take action to bring about lasting and meaningful change." Let’s hope they make the right decision.

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