In a special message to mark Women’s Month, Australian Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Scott Despoja, urges Alumni to engage in and lead gender equality initiatives.
“This year is the 20th anniversary of the Beijing World Conference on Women, at which 189 countries unanimously adopted a blueprint for gender equality. It was a high point of international cooperation on advancing the rights of women. While progress has been made in the last 20 years, we have not achieved what was aspired to in 1995 in any of our countries.
“We know that women’s education and leadership are two driving forces of gender equality.
“The Australia Awards and its Alumni program recognise the critical importance of both. In 2014, women won 47% of Australia Awards in Africa. These women join the growing ranks of leaders in their countries, and, I hope they will be active participants in their Alumni organisations, such as the African Women in Leadership Network.
“The Network offers female Alumni an opportunity to engage in issues that affect women, mentor potential awards candidates, and share ideas and inspiration for advancing gender equality. It harnesses their skills, experience and energy for the benefit of women across Africa. I was delighted to experience this Network in operation during a visit to Pretoria last year.
“In September, I travelled to South Africa with the Foreign Minister. I joined a group of Australia Awards Alumni from across southern Africa at a workshop on empowering women in Africa.
“Participants – women and men – developed action plans to address personal and societal barriers to women’s empowerment in their countries. The energy and commitment were inspiring.
“I urge Alumni to engage in and lead gender equality initiatives that empower women in your countries and beyond.
“I hope you will be able to make the most of your Australia Awards experience and networks.
“One opportunity for Alumni is the Small Grants Scheme, which offers funding for development initiatives, particularly ones that demonstrate a commitment to gender equality and social inclusion. To learn more about these grants, visit http://localhost/websites/aawards-dev/small-grants/.
“I commend the example of Harriet Miyato, an Alumnus of Deakin University (1995), who has led important work to support girls and children with disabilities in Zambia. As Executive Director of Zambia Open Community Schools (ZOCS), Harriet secured funding for ZOCS in 2014 to train Parent-Community School Committee members with the aim of increasing the participation of girls and vulnerable children in their schools.
“Harriet’s work is an encouraging reminder of the real impact all Alumni can have on promoting gender equality.”
Natasha Stott Despoja AM was appointed as Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls on 16 December 2013. She is also the founding Chairperson of Our Watch (the Foundation to Prevent Violence Against Women and their Children).