Gender Equality in Australia

Gender inequality continues to be a major barrier to the realisation of rights and access to opportunities for girls and women in Australia. The unequal status of women and girls in Australia is underlined by structural and systemic gendered inequalities. Gender inequality interacts with other systems of power and inequality resulting in multiple and intersecting experiences of inequality and disadvantage for marginalised women.

Feminist movements are critical drivers of social transformation for equality.

Housing

“Housing is often portrayed as a neutral system, mere ‘bricks and mortar’, that does not preference any one gender. It is assumed that housing policy and urban planning serves the needs of the whole society or community equally, and that the distribution of housing resources serves the needs of the whole family equally… Housing systems and opportunities are embedded within structured and institutionalised relations of power which are gendered. ”
Patricia Kennet and Kam Wah Chan

Access to and rights over housing are shaped by gender. Women’s experiences of economic inequality, including but not limited to the over-representation of women in key poverty indictors and the gender wealth, income and retirement gaps, combine with an increasingly unaffordable housing market to undermine the position of women in housing systems. Compounding this is the impact of violence, specifically domestic and family violence, on women’s experiences of housing. Issues relating to economic inequality, violence and unequal distribution of caring responsibilities represent a set of challenges specific to gender which reveal both the gendered dimensions of housing stress and homelessness and the need for solutions which are gender responsive.

What the data tell us about women and housing:

And there are gender gaps in the data.

As a result of these challenges, patterns of housing assistance use are gendered.

What’s needed?

Housing affordability and homelessness policies must recognise that housing is, first and foremost, a human right. Policy responses to housing affordability must recognise the role of housing in meeting the safety, participation, health and wellbeing needs of women and advancing gender equality.

There needs to be recognition that housing assistance and an adequate income support system are critical for women’s access to housing. Governments must support and fund a diversity of housing assistance measures.

Large-scale investment in affordable housing supply that meets the needs of women in design, location, and affordability is urgently needed.

Detail on our housing recommendations is elaborated in our policy papers and submissions which can be found in the publications sections.

Young Women’s Advisory Group (YWAG)

“As our name and feminist agenda suggest, we promote the role that young women play to address gender inequalities, from women’s leadership to gender-based violence.”
Sienna Aguilar, YWAG Member

ERA’s Young Women’s Advisory Group (YWAG) is a space within ERA to foster young women’s activism and leadership on gender equality issues to ensure young women’s voices and perspectives are incorporated into ERA’s work and advocacy while cultivating intergenerational feminist dialogue.  YWAG values young women’s voices, experiences and expertise and works towards meaningful and genuine representation, participation and engagement of young women.

YWAG is made up of ten young women (aged 30 and under) from across Australia, working collectively to bring young women’s perspectives and views to ERA’s advocacy and driving research and advocacy projects relevant to the lives of young women.

YWAG’s main focus is on strengthening sex education in Australia through the project:  Let’s Talk: Young Women’s Views on Sex Education.  Let’s Talk captures and amplifies the voices and experiences of young women in relation to sex education in order to improve comprehensive sexuality and respectful relationships education in the national curriculum. You can find YWAG’s Let’s Talk report here and here.

YWAG has regular input into ERA’s advocacy and policy positions, participates in our policy work groups, and develops papers for ERA’s projects. YWAG also contributes to other youth and gender-oriented projects. YWAG is powered by young women working in a voluntary capacity.  It’s an excellent opportunity for young women to access training and experience in women’s policy, advocacy and collective organising.

YWAG Herstory

YWAG began in 2010 with previous work including the curation of the feminist blogging site Settle Petal and a campaign to promote positivity around body image for young women.

International Engagement

“Civil society organisations are key players for holding governments to account, and to ensure their role as duty-bearers for the fulfilment of human rights. At the same time, CSOs empower societies and people to claim their rights as rights-holders.”
Emelie Aho, Shrinking Space for Civil Society –Challenges in Implementing the 2030 Agenda

Equality Rights Alliance works with our sister National Women’s Alliances to support the women’s sector in Australia to effectively engage in international human rights processes. We do this by building women’s sector capacity and knowledge in human rights processes and instruments through resources and events and coordinating sector participation and engagement in these processes.

Our areas of focus are:

What is the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)? 

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the chief policy making body on women’s rights and gender equality at the United Nations. CSW operates as a functional commission of the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), meaning CSW is charged with promoting and monitoring women’s rights around the world.

CSW is held over approximately two weeks at the United Nations Headquarters in New York every year in March. The principle output of CSW is the Agreed Conclusions, international soft law commitments for member states (governments) to implement.

These Agreed Conclusions are reached through weeks of negotiations both in the lead up to and at CSW. These negotiations take place among government delegations of the 193 member states of the United Nations. There is limited space for civil society in the negotiation room itself, though some countries include civil society representatives on their government delegations, such as Australia.

Civil Society is actively engaged in CSW through the NGO CSW parallel events and direct advocacy at the UN.

Mind the GAPP (Gender Aware Policies and Processes)

“The Commission…urges Governments…to take the following actions:

Reiterate the need for gender mainstreaming, including targeted actions and investments in the formulation and implementation of all financial, economic, environmental and social policies, and adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation and transformative actions for the promotion of gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment at all levels.”
CSW60 Agreed Conclusions

Mind the GAPP (Gender Aware Policies and Procedures) is ERA’s project to advocate for robust gender policy machinery at the Federal Government level. By gender policy machinery, we mean processes incorporated into policy development which both raise awareness of and respond to the differential impacts of all policies across genders. Critical to this is an acknowledgment that every area of policy is an opportunity to advance gender equality.

Current government policy development processes and systems do not adequately account for gender and women’s experiences and indeed male or masculinist bias in the policy process is left unattended. In the past, the Federal Government has had stronger gender analysis within Government. Over recent decades, these practices have diminished.

So, what does a strong gender policy machinery look like in practice?

What’s needed?

ERA is joining with our sister National Women’s Alliances in advocating for a National Gender Equality Plan. A National Plan would bring together component initiatives and policies addressing gender equality issues and mainstream a gender perspective across all policies. A National Gender Equality Plan must be intersectional, reflecting the multiple and intersecting inequalities that determine a diversity of women’s social locations and experiences.

Such a Plan would provide both the gender infrastructure needed to underpin and guide gender equality policies and initiatives, and, critically, the priority needed to ensures attention to gender equality endures the boom and bust levels of attention.

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