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.
- 1 in 3 women in Australia has experienced violence since the age of 15.
- 1 in 3 women have been sexually harassed since the age of 15.
- Women are more likely to live below the poverty line.
- On average, women retire with approximately half the level of retirement savings of men.
- Women spend twice as much time on unpaid work as men.
- Women make up 32% of all Federal Parliamentarians.
- Women account for just 21% of sources directly quoted in news articles.
Feminist movements are critical drivers of social transformation for equality.
“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:
- Women make up 52% of the 886 200 people on low-incomes in rental stress (paying more than 30% of their income on rent).
- Domestic and family violence is the main reason women and children leave their homes in Australia. 38 per cent of people approaching Specialist Homelessness Services do so as a result of domestic and family violence. And 92% of this group are women and children.
- The Unsettled: Life in Australia’s Private Rental Market report found that women were more likely to experience rental discrimination; 56% of women reported experiencing discrimination in the rental market (compared with 42% of men). 11% of women reported living in a property in need of urgent repairs, compared with the 8% average.
- The most recent Anglicare Rental Affordability Snapshot reveals only 1.5% (1011) of rental properties nationally are available for a single parent on the Parenting Payment. 95 per cent of Single Parenting Payment recipients are women.
- Older women are one of the fastest growing groups experiencing homelessness. AIHW data shows that from 2014/15 to 2015/16 there was a 17.5% increase in the number of women 55+ seeking out specialist homelessness services (SHS). This is twice the rate of growth for the generalist SHS population. Data from the 2011 Census reveal 221 833 single women over the age of 45 on low-median incomes living in the private rental market.
- Women with disabilities face additional barriers in accessing appropriate, safe and affordable housing, including discrimination in the private rental market and additional costs required to obtain modified/appropriate dwellings. Less than 1% of dwellings in Australia were found to be affordable for someone on the Disability Support Pension in the most recent Anglicare Rental Snapshot.
- Aboriginal women are 2.2 times more likely than non-Aboriginal women to be homeless at some point in their life.
- Women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds can, among many housing issues, experience a lack of appropriate homelessness services including a lack of interpreters and translators.
As a result of these challenges, patterns of housing assistance use are gendered.
- Women make up 59% of those using specialist homelessness services and 64% of those whose requests for specialist homelessness assistance go unassisted.
- Women are the majority of adult tenants in public housing. There are 297 740 adult women living in public housing and 218 784 adult men. Forty-four per cent of public housing tenants report living with a disability.
- Women make up 60% of Commonwealth Rent Assistance recipients and are more likely to be paying enough rent to be eligible for the maximum CRA payment and more likely to remain in housing stress after the payment.
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, former 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 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.
“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:
- the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW),
- Treaty reporting processes, and
- the Sustainable Development Goals.
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?
- Gender Responsive Budgeting provides a case study of how gender can be embedded into a seemingly gender neutral policy development process: the Budget cycle. While the quality and scope of gender budgeting in Australia has varied since its inception in 1984, it is clear that the process contributes to gender mainstreaming and provides a level of accountability for the Government’s international and domestic gender equality commitments.
- Comprehensive Data Collections that are sex and gender disaggregated, gender responsive and transformative must form the foundation of gendered approaches to policies. A case in point is the Time Use Survey – a critical measurement of gendered division of unpaid labour. Datasets, such as this, must underpin targets and inform initiatives to advance gender equality.
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.