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Shivani Gopal

Shivani Gopal

November 26, 2021
| Womens Advocacy

Founder's Weekly 8th Oct 2021: Dominic Perottet makes his debut but can women trust him?

The new Premier says one of his top values is “freedoms”, but are they the ones women want?

Fellow remarkable community,

For those of you in NSW, this is our last Friday in this 100+ day lockdown. We are just 2 days away from ‘freedom day’ (not that I’m counting...) the day where strict restrictions are paired back and we can return to a version of ‘normalcy’. 

To mark this occasion, this moment in history that we are living through, we have given our team at The Remarkable Woman the day off, on us, to go out and enjoy seeing their loved ones, refresh themselves with the world outside their 5km radius, and do whatever it is they would like to do that they’ve been so long deprived of - dine at a restaurant, sip coffees inside a cafe or friends home, get their hair cut, the list goes on! Personally, I’ll be looking forward to introducing my son to friends and family who have had to wait 3 long months! 

Navigating this time has been incredibly tough for the global population, and our team, just like you, are no exception to that. We’ve had to be incredibly open and supportive of one another and to make it somewhat easier, we’ve given our team the space and time to go and get the vaccinations and recover thereafter, also on us. They have all been able to make good use of that and are now equipped to enjoy the new freedoms soon to be upon us. 

A hell of a lot is happening in the world, and the news of the week that’s been is no different. Catch up on it all with this week’s wrap. 

Enjoy!

Can women trust Dominic Perrottet?

There are fears Dominic Perrottet’s appointment as Premier of NSW means a backwards step for women’s rights.

The conservative Premier has previously warned that Australia should stop “throwing money” at welfare because it is contributing to rising divorce rates and single parent families. He doesn’t support same-sex marriage on the grounds that “marriage is about every child’s fundamental right to grow up with their own mum and dad”. He also opposed the decriminalisation of abortion in NSW.

The Premier was grilled on The Today Show this week, with the hosts asking: “How do you say to the women of NSW, ‘trust me I’ve got you’?”

His reply?

“Look at my track record,” he said. “Obviously, as has been pretty well set out, I‘m a person of faith but that’s very much a private matter for me.

“In public life, I‘m here to represent everyone and a number of measures that we’ve had, and I’ve certainly implemented as Treasurer of the state, in this year’s budget, we were the first state that brought in miscarriage leave for women in the public service in NSW, premature birth leave.

“I‘m here to serve every single person in this state. Man, woman, any religious or multicultural background.”

However, the Women's Electoral Lobby has expressed concern that his views on abortion could affect ongoing reforms to give women across the state access to abortions.

"An overwhelming proportion of both women and men supported decriminalisation of abortion so we expect him to be respectful of that," Dr Mary O'Sullivan, NSW coordinator of the Women's Electoral Lobby, told ABC News.

"We trust that the new Premier doesn't draw on private religious beliefs to impede ongoing implementation of the Abortion Law Reform Act through the NSW public health system."

Perrottet told 2BG this week that he has no intention of changing any laws in that space.

"One of my top values is freedoms," he said.

Perrottet previously expressed his views on “freedoms” in 2016, when he announced his support for Donald Trump.

He tweeted: “If you stand for free speech, you are not a bigot.”

“If you question man-made climate change, you are not a sceptic.”

“If you support stronger border, you are not a racist.”

“If you want a plebiscite on same sex marriage, you are not a homophobe.

“These are mainstream values that people should be free to articulate without fear of ridicule or persecution by the Left.”

On the other hand, Perrottet has shown that he understands the demands of family life and the importance of both genders pulling their weight.

In his maiden speech to Parliament he revealed: “I had the privilege of growing up in a large family. I am the third of 12 children. As you may imagine, my mother ran a very tight ship.

“But with so many of us around, she realised very quickly she could not get everything done by herself. I polished 12 pairs of shoes in summer. I packed 12 lunches in autumn. I changed 1200 nappies in winter and then changed them again in spring.”

He has also promised to elevate more women to his cabinet and has conceded further gender diversity is needed, which he will address at “the appropriate time”.

The Women's Electoral Lobby is hoping Perrottet will support a number of bills before Parliament with the potential to have a significant impact on the lives of women and girls in NSW.

They include the education amendment (parental rights in education) bill that proposes changes to sex education and consent education in NSW public schools; plus the anti-discrimination amendment (religious freedom) bill, which would provide faith-based organisations with exemptions to discrimination laws.

"The Perrottet government's response to these bills will be one critical marker of their support for women's rights and gender equality," Dr O'Sullivan said.

She called for women to be at the centre of his COVID-19 recovery plan.

"We will be looking to the Premier to recognise the disproportionate suffering of women during the COVID crisis," Dr O'Sullivan said.

Meanwhile, Mary-Lou Jarvis, president of the NSW Liberal Women's Council, said women voters would identify with the new Premier, as the father-of-six was "living the juggle and struggle".

"I think any mother who's been home-schooling kids or juggling work will identify with him," she said.

"I think they'll give him a chance."

As to whether Perrottet will reward this chance he’s been given with positive action on gender balance in government and women’s rights in general…only time will tell.

Here’s how you can help our Afghan sisters

The Taliban came to power promising greater freedom for women, including in education and employment, but has failed to deliver on those promises.

Older girls are still not back at school, there are no women in senior positions in the new government, the Women's Ministry in Kabul has been shut and women will only be allowed to work in a small number of jobs.

They are also being prevented from protesting these injustices. Impromptu demonstrations have been banned, while previous rallies have been broken up by gunfire and beatings.

Demonstrators must seek prior permission and provide details of the place, timings and slogans they will chant.

Women's rights activist Taranom Seyedi told Reuters people are too scared to continue to demonstrate.

She said the Taliban had made lists of all the women who protested and vowed to search their houses.

"Since my participation in the protest, I've had to relocate twice ... My family is terrified, and even my neighbours are concerned and urging me not to join," she said.

Disturbingly, Taliban commander Waheedullah Hashimi told A Current Affair via video link this week that “the best place for women is home. They have to remain in the home. We have different jobs - outside jobs and inside jobs”. 

He added: “Our Sharia Law does not allow women in politics because if we go back 1400 years, - the time of the prophet - at that time we had no women in politics.”

You might need to read that again to let the absurdity of it sink in.

When veteran TV reporter Dan Nolan asked if it was time for the Taliban to change its views, he said “no”.

“The religion of Islam will never get changed. What was 1400 years ago will be the same this time too,” he responded.

We cannot forget our Afghan sisters during these harrowing times. Australians can help by writing to their local members about their concerns about the rights of Afghan women and to increase the numbers of refugees allowed into the country.

Girls Not Brides suggest other ways to support the women of Afghanistan including organisations to donate to if you can:

Women for Afghan Women (WAW) is a grassroots civil society organisation dedicated to protecting and promoting the rights of disenfranchised Afghan women and girls in Afghanistan and New York. You can answer their urgent appeal by donating here.

Madre is a global women’s rights organisation providing long-term support to women -led groups that are impacted by war and disaster in inaccessible areas. They are calling for funds to facilitate an urgent underground escape and support network in Afghanistan. Donate here.

International Rescue Committee (IRC) helps people whose lives have been upended by war, conflict and natural disasters around the world. They have been responding in Afghanistan since 1988. IRC are appealing for funding to help them continue to deliver aid to support children and families in Afghanistan. You can help them continue their work by donating here.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works to promote and protect the rights of children and women in Afghanistan and have a presence in every region. So far, the Taliban have allowed UNICEF to remain and there is hope that they will be allowed to set up schools which girls can also attend. Donate here.

The Women’s Peace & Humanitarian Fund (WPHF) is an innovative partnership empowering local women to be a force for crisis response and lasting peace. They galvanise support from across the globe to support the efforts of women working on the frontlines of the world’s most intractable conflicts. WPHF are supporting local women’s organisations in Afghanistan to sustain their work on the front lines of conflict and crisis. Donate here.

Afghanaid is a humanitarian and development organisation, working with millions of deprived and excluded families in some of the poorest and most remote communities in Afghanistan. They build basic services, improve livelihoods, strengthen the rights of women and children, help communities protect against natural disasters and respond to humanitarian emergencies. Donate here.

Global Fund for Women are a leading funder of gender justice organisations and movements worldwide. They are funding gender justice groups in Afghanistan and are working to protect and relocate women human rights defenders who are in danger. Donate here.

As always, we also urge you to donate if you can. The reality is that without enabling organisations to support Afghan women in need the chances of true aid is slim. If you can’t, head over to this post on our Instagram page to see how else you can help.

Why housing is a women’s rights issue

Lack of access to housing has gendered causes and effects according to new data from the Pan-Canadian Women’s Housing and Homelessness Survey.

The survey determined that gender equality in Canada depends on fair access to adequate housing - twice as many women-led households as male-led ones struggling with affordability, suitability or adequacy of housing.

Additionally, 47% of participants said a break-up was the main reason they lost their most recent housing, meaning they were forced to choose between staying in a personal or romantic relationship – often one that is abusive - or becoming homeless.

Local statistics show the situation is dire for women over the age of 55, who are the fastest-growing cohort of homeless Australians.

Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr Kay Patterson noted last year: “Up to 300,000 older Australian women today are at risk of becoming homeless.

“Women accumulate less wealth across their lifetime—and the effect compounds over time. As a result, almost one in four women approaching retirement has no superannuation, despite living longer than men, and about a third are living in poverty in retirement.”

As we reported last week, females are retiring with a third less super than males in Australia due to what’s been dubbed the “gender super gap”.

According to an Industry Super Australia report 1.45 million mothers have received the Commonwealth’s parental leave pay in the last 10 years, taking time out of paid work to raise children, but losing thousands in retirement savings.

They have missed out on more than $1.6 billion in superannuation because the Federal Government refuses to pay super on its parental leave scheme. Close to 171,000 women missed out on $216.7 million in super payments in the 2019/20 financial year alone.

While the gender pay gap is already concerning enough at 14.2%, the gender super gap is almost double that figure, at a shocking 28%. Women retire with a median superannuation balance of $146,900 compared to men, who walk away with $204,107.

The number of women living in poverty will continue to grow while the Australian government continues to fail to act on closing both the pay and superannuation gaps. This discrimination against women reflects not only a numeric disadvantage but also a poorer quality of life and severe lack of financial freedoms. The reality is that you, your own mother or grandmothers who, if not already, will be struggling to live a fulfilled end to their lives. It’s just not fair at all. It’s in scenarios like this where I think that empathy is a joke to the government and superannuation companies alike.

Thousands march for abortion rights in the US

A federal judge has moved to temporarily block the new Texas law restricting access to abortion in the state, but there are fears it’s not enough to protect vulnerable women and doctors in the state.

US District Judge Robert Pitman has issued a preliminary injunction halting enforcement of the law, known as Senate Bill 8 (SB). The order was in response to a lawsuit filed by the Justice Department seeking to prevent Texas, the second-most populous US state, from enforcing the abortion law, which makes no exceptions for rape or incest.

 "SB8 left our patients with two choices: carry a pregnancy to term against their will or travel out of state to receive care," the judge’s injunction said. "This ban hurt Texans and now we can help them." 

"From the moment SB8 went into effect, women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution."

Thousands of women and female politicians joined nationwide protests in the US this week, demanding continued access to abortion.

In New York, Governor Kathy Hochul spoke at several rallies, noting: "I'm sick and tired of having to fight over abortion rights.

"It's settled law in the nation and you are not taking that right away from us, not now, not ever."

In Arizona, Democratic state representative Melody Hernandez said anti-abortion advocates emboldened by the recent developments in Texas and at the Supreme Court would not prevail.

"An overwhelming majority of Arizonans, of Americans, support everything we are standing here for today," she said.

In Maine, Republican senator Susan Collins called the Texas law "extreme, inhumane and unconstitutional" and said she was working to make Roe vs Wade the "law of the land".

However, the reprieve for abortion providers in Texas may only be temporary and many doctors are fearful they can still be sued for providing abortions. There were more than 40 abortion clinics in Texas when the law took effect. Only 20 clinics remain.

Until a more permanent ruling is put in place, women face an uncertain future in Texas. Seeing women’s rights wind back rather than advance in the United States in 2021 is incredibly disappointing.

Here’s to the end of another week.
Happy Friday, remarkable women!

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