Coinciding with International women's day I attended the UN Women's breakfast in my town along with 2000 other women! Aside from the phenomenal almost military exercise in delivering a sumptuous and nutritious breakfast to a cast of thousands, the format of the morning was to say the least..inspiring.
The event has been running in my town for 19 years and this year we managed to put on the largest breakfast in the country. Not bad for one of the smallest cities in the nation.
This years theme was around gender poverty. I was most interested though not surprised to hear:
- 70% of the worlds poor are women.
- Women earn less than 10% of the worlds wages for performing more than two thirds of the worlds work.
- Sub-Saharan African women own less than 2% of the land and produce more than 90% of the food.
- Women reinvest 90% of their income into the family, men reinvest 30-40%.
I listened to a Cambodian-Australian author who migrated to Australia in her mother's womb. Her parents were refugees from Cambodia's Khmer Rouge. Her mother took up the tools of a gold smith and laboured in the shed of a suburban Australian home making gold jewelery by hand which she would sell to local jewellery stores for $4.00 a ring. She laboured for 20 years in the shed, simulating the skill of machine made jewelery when there was little regard for 'handmade' at that time. Outworking. Dangerous chemicals, burns suffered on her skin. A "race to the bottom" they call it. The race to the bottom was never so acutely felt as when a man from Vietnam, a refugee and jeweller, was able to undercut the girls mother by 50 cents.
The girl spent her early years the oldest of four children bring up the babies. Struggling as an 8 yr old to keep her siblings safe, fed, clean and happy while her mother endured this race to the bottom.
Just to remind you...in suburban Australia. In the lucky country. In the clever country.
In twenty years when the girls mother was 43yrs old, she emerged from the back yard shed. She was unable to communicate in the surrounding community not ever having learned the local lingo. She was uneducated though not unintelligent. After all she had taught herself to smith gold, she had made a small business in her backyard and enabled four children to be schooled and fed in this new land.
Amid this story of struggle and triumph. Amongst the 2000. In this room of politicians, influential business women, Aboriginal elder women, mothers, grandmothers, sisters and school girls, it did cross my mind..in this room of gender empowerment.."I wonder how many of us in this room are submissive".
Submissiveness and gender equality? Coexisting. Not poles apart. Not a contradiction in terms. Not inside me anyway... or perhaps a tenuous link! But different stories exist in in different places. 6 billion stories....
How many submissive women in the room?