“Are Women Invisible?” Clementine Ford Seminar – Photos and Live Recording

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The UQ Women’s Collective is pleased to announce the complete success of our event UQWC presents: Clementine Ford. Author, social commentator, and feminist Clementine Ford spoke on the topic of women and girls in the media at UQ on Friday, October 3rd to a full room of excited and engaged feminists. Ford is indeed an eloquent, sassy, and vital voice in modern-day feminism, unlike the world according to Andrew Bolt, who says she’s ‘just some feminist with bared tattoos’. Here are some great photos by UQWC member and photographer Talia Enright, with Clementine and the event’s main organiser and host, Amy Jelacic:

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We also have a recording of Clementine’s talk. Due to technical difficulties, the first five or so minutes of Clementine’s great speech has been cut off. But please enjoy the rest of her hour long talk and Q&A session as an audio recording here!

Thanks once again to all the UQWC members and the UQ Union who helped to make the day possible. You can find more photos of the day at our UQWC facebook page!

~ UQWC

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“A Dirty Game”: One Woman’s Retrospective on the UQ Elections

By Anonymous
As featured in Wom*news #11: Women In Public

Trigger warning as this piece references experiences of sexual harassment. 

I got involved in student politics because people I vaguely knew asked me to do a favour by campaigning, and because I thought it would be fun and a good way to make some new buddies. I did not expect what would happen next.

The first day I was campaigning, I was at the bus stop with two other female campaigners when a male opposition campaigner called us ugly. Straight up, to our faces. From that moment it was personal. I had heard and witnessed tales of our opposition’s awful behaviour and the first taste I received of it was enough to get me fired up and angry. I campaigned my little heart out for the next week and a half, enduring constant verbal and physical intimidation. I was called every name under the sun. I was threatened. I began to feel unsafe on campus. I tried to go to Campus Security and the police, but all I got back was victim blaming. Then the first round of elections was cancelled, and I knew I would have to go through it all again.

I didn’t want to, but there was no way I could let those scumbags win.

Round Two began and it was even worse than I could ever imagine. By the end of the two weeks I was hanging on by a thread. I was taking Valium to stave off panic attacks. At one point I spent time locked in the women’s room, scared for my physical safety. I was shoved, pushed against railings, crushed between two large male opposition campaigners and once again verbally abused.  By 4 pm Friday I was wracked with exhaustion and worry: what if it had all been for nothing, the extra-ordinary shit me and my fellow campaigners had put ourselves through? I scrutineered that night and the more votes we counted, the more I knew we were going to ruin the incumbent party.

That night as we drank from the keg of glory, we got a stern talking about our safety walking home. It was unreal. Campus politics has always been a dirty game – most people are familiar with the tales of our new PM and his antics which included punching the wall next to a woman’s head. This campaign experience has done nothing but further reinforce the notions of patriarchy and misogyny in our society.

Ladies hoping for careers in politics, in activism, in public life, we need to smash this. We need to Destroy the Joint.

~ Anonymous

Joan Smith’s ‘The Public Woman’

A review by Lotte Scheel

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I’m sure I’d be preaching to the converted if my only comment is that feminism is still very much needed. In a sense, Joan Smith is also preaching to the converted. When I started reading her most recent work, The Public Woman (2013), I had long since been branded as the raging feminist in most of my social circles. I didn’t expect anything she wrote to change my opinion on anything: on the contrary, I expected the entire book to consolidate my already existing views. And in a way, yes, it did. It confirmed what I already knew: that society treats women like shit, despite maintaining an illusion that women are equal.

I read this book with an overwhelming sense of déjà-vu. The points Smith makes and the case studies she uses echo a truth that I, as a woman, am eternally confronted with. Smith picks up on a myriad of issues, using case studies and statistics to make her point. She discusses the way women are treated by society, the way they are turned into a commodity, the barriers they face in politics, in the public sphere, social circles and in the home. The whole book carries a trigger warning for general misogyny and violence against women, but the chapters describing in-depth about torture and murder of women (Possession and The Witches of Perugia) carry massive trigger warnings – I managed to slowly work through Possession, but I started and could not finish The Witches of Perugia, because it was just too distressing, due to extremely high levels of sexual and physical violence.

She explains the problem is that our patriarchal society trains both men and women to accept and in some cases even relish a perverse simultaneous infantilising and hypersexualisation of women, using the glamour model Jordan and the description of a particular strip club as examples.

The title of her chapter on women in politics, Calm Down, Dear, actual words spoken by the current British Prime Minister, David Cameron, to a female Labour politician, perfectly embody the blatant condescension and disdain most male politicians have for women. While this chapter deals with British politics, one could easily switch David Cameron’s name for Tony Abbott’s.

While I said previously that in a way this book confirmed my already existing views, Smith actually managed to change my mind on an issue I had been sure of my stance on. It was in the chapter Buying Power, which discusses sex work and the shocking commonplace of child prostitution in supposedly developed countries.  I already knew that sex workers had very dangerous working conditions, and because of this, I was convinced that legalisation of prostitution was a good attempt at lessening the danger for women in the industry. However, Smith explains that where prostitution has been legalised, both legal and illegal brothels multiply (for example, when Victoria, Australia, legalised brothels, illegal brothels ended up outnumbering legal ones four to one).  I was also horrified to learn that in areas where prostitution has been legalised, the number of trafficked women to the area skyrockets, and the number of underage girls who are groomed for prostitution increases. Since finding out that while it provides security to some sex workers, the legalisation of prostitution actually increases the number of women who are exploited and trafficked, I have changed my stance on the issue and support the Swedish model, where pimps and those who buy sex are punished while women who are selling sex are not and are provided with safe exit strategies.

While I was impressed with the majority of Smith’s book, I did have a problem with Queen Wag, her chapter on Kate Middleton. Here Smith argues that Middleton has always played a traditionally feminine role, first literally being a lady in waiting for her prince, and then taking on the role of princess, dutifully becoming pregnant with the future monarch soon after her wedding. Smith points out that while the princes would serve in the armed forces, Middleton “stuck to the most traditional of female roles, visiting projects to do with children” (p92). While I agree that limiting women to traditional roles is problematic, and there is no doubt that the royal family’s traditions are certainly patriarchal, it seems that Smith is almost attacking Middleton herself for her adoption of these roles. On the last page of this chapter, Smith writes that Middleton has “done little since leaving university except play a supporting role to her boyfriend, marry him with great pomp and ceremony and get pregnant for the first time…unambitious, uncontroversial and bland, Kate Middleton was Queen Wag in everything but name.” This seems inappropriate considering that the main sources we have on Middleton’s life are tabloid newspapers, which offer a sensationalistic representation of everything:  there are many aspects of Middleton’s life of which we are not aware. And regardless, while I am aware it can be frustrating to watch women accept traditional societal gender roles, it is more beneficial to critique the system that constrains women, than to condemn the women who are trapped in its snares.

As Smith concludes her book with the slogan Women’s Rights Are Human Rights, I conclude with my wholehearted agreement with the dominant message of the book. Women’s rights are human rights, and as the book has demonstrated, they are sorely lacking.  Patriarchy is entrenched in our society, and it is up to the younger generation to grow up and enter the world with a new attitude. The Public Woman on the whole gives a wonderful overview of the state of women in the world today, and as such it deserves a place on mandatory reading lists for Year Twelve English in all schools, to educate young men and women: to make them cognisant of the terrible state of women’s rights – human rights, and gift them with an awareness that will ready them to make the world a better place.

~ Lotte Scheel

Gender $tudies – Can We Afford the Cost?

By Laura Howden

*Trigger Warnings: this article contains a brief mention of rape and sexual assault. Reader discretion is advised if sensitive to content of this nature.*

Two undergraduate students at the April 18 rally on UQ’s St Lucia campus, preparing to lead the march. (Photo captured by Laura Howden.)

Two undergraduate students at the April 18 rally on UQ’s St Lucia campus, preparing to lead the march. (Photo captured by Laura Howden.)

“When Gender Studies is under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!” The chant ripples through the crowd as we march across the St Lucia campus of The University of Queensland (UQ); a formidable assembly of staff and students armed with megaphones, banners and copies of an online petition that amassed some 836 signatures of support. Our final destination is the UQ senate meeting, at which representatives from UQ’s Gender Studies Teaching Committee hope to present evidence against the institution’s decision to abolish the major. Close to a dozen police officers await our arrival at the foot of the building. Requests to allow a delegation from our ranks to enter the senate are refused but, at the last, they allow a copy of the petition and two other documents to be handed through the line of officers and tabled by the board. When we finally disperse the protestors’ anger and frustration is palpable, and it is clear that this issue is a long way away from reaching any kind of resolution.

The April 18 rally was organised in response to an announcement by the university’s Executive Arts Dean, Fred D’Agostino, that as of 2014 Gender Studies would no longer be offered as a choice of major for undergraduate students (with existing students given the option to continue on until 2018). One week prior to the protest event, Mr D’Agostino was quoted in The Australian newspaper as saying he “was not aware” of any complaints from undergraduate students – this in spite of the vocal ‘Save Gender Studies’ student collective on campus, which held its first meeting of the year on March 11.

But it has not just been local students standing up and speaking out against the cuts. Director of Gender Studies at Melbourne University, Professor Jeanette Hoorn, spoke both at the rally and at an earlier forum alongside members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU). She noted in each of her talks that UQ would now be the only GO8 university in Australia not to offer a gender or women’s studies program, and urged UQ administrators to recognise its significance beyond the classroom. “I believe you cannot do any gender studies in Iran these days,” Professor Hoorn said at the rally. “It’s a shame you can’t do much in Queensland either.”

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“A Silent Struggle for Women” – Women and Sexism in Parliament

Here’s a much awaited copy of Izzy Manfield and Hannah Tilling’s speech (UQWC, represent!) from the UQ Social Justice forum held back in April this year. Our topic was “Women in Parliament” :) 

Hi everyone! I’m Izzy…

And I’m Hannah…

And we are here tonight to discuss women in Parliament, and how our perception of women and our reluctance to grant them power has prevented and is preventing equality in the Australian Parliament.

Let’s cut to the chase with some stats. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, women comprise approximately half of Australia’s total population. However, women are less than one-third of all parliamentarians in Australian parliaments. Considering Australian women only achieved the vote in 1902, you might say this will only take a matter of time and us women shouldn’t be so pushy. But is time all it will take to achieve equality in Australian Parliament?

We are here to tell you that we need more than time. We need a complete renovation of our female stereotypes in all walks of life and in all professions and situations. We need to investigate the role of women and the sexism they face to combat this discrimination. It’s a difficult issue to overcome. While this speech may not change the world straight up, we are hoping it will give you food for thought that all of you, both male and female and anything else, can and should take this information into your own workplaces and your own careers.

Sexism is difficult because it’s rarely out in the open. It’s covert, it’s hidden, it’s a silent pressure and a silent struggle for women. It’s hard to detect and even harder to prevent.

When a woman is in Parliament, no one is going to blatantly disclaim they are uncertain of her leadership capabilities because she is a woman. They disguise their uncertainties by dragging attention to her manner of dress, her intimate relationships or family or lack thereof or any other factors that have traditionally been applied to women to keep them out of power and in the household.

How can this be changed? What are we doing about the issue now, today, so we can have a better tomorrow? What will we see when we ‘look towards the future’?

In the past half decade, all appears to be looking up for women in Parliament in Australia. With Anna Bligh, Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Attorney-General Nicola Roxon, there seems to be a lot of recent firsts for women in Australian politics. But is this enough?

A lack of women in Parliament isn’t simply going to solve itself by us pumping BULK female members into seats. The issue is how society perceives women in daily roles and the public’s perception of ideal leadership qualities. The lack of women in Parliament starts with who you think is most worthy of your vote. If there are a man and a woman with equal capabilities and they are equally level-headed policy makers and both are excellent organisers and public speakers, who are you going to vote for?

And it’s not even that. Do we really have a society that makes it socially acceptable for a woman to be interested in politics? And once a woman is involved, is she actively encouraged to be as engaged with the debate and can she actually take control of the meeting room without receiving increasing criticism from her peers?

I know you’ve heard it all before. The stereotypical qualities of a man include being responsible, protective, capable, and in control. When a man is assertive, he is perceived as in control; while for a woman, she is instead aggressive and abrupt. Even if a woman is assertive, we disguise this quality by applying these feminine qualities (such as bitchiness) which all have negative connotations. The way we can accept women into positions with power is to redistribute the adjectives we use to describe them. Masculine words are seen for the most part as gender neutral, while feminine words are explicitly engineered for women alone. We think Nicki Minaj sums this up quite nicely in her infamous ‘Bossed Up’ clip.

Since a woman is seen to be aggressive if she’s assertive, therefore a woman is conveyed as quite manipulative, secretive and passive aggressive: none of these qualities are desirable for leadership positions and hence make acquiring such positions as a woman all the more difficult. These qualities are more than just a stereotype, they are expected behaviours that are covertly enforced.

A woman can never win when it comes to leadership in this climate. Even if she isn’t manipulative or secretive, she is just thought to be cunning enough to hide her true character; instead being branded as fake and a liar. Take Julia Gillard for example. Her appointment as Prime Minister was entirely justified under the Australian political system, and yet her entire reign has been poisoned with her fellow Australians calling her a liar; a cheat; a back-stabbing bitch. Just imagine if Kevin Rudd’s and Julia Gillard’s positions had been switched with Gillard running for office in the election and Rudd then taking over shortly afterwards, how different the public reaction would have been.

Leadership qualities should be encouraged in all women, not just those who seek a political career. We can’t keep pretending all women are naturally submissive and family-orientated except for the rare, outstanding few ‘career women’ who are different. ‘Career women’ are not some aspirational, testosterone-pumped, genetically variant breed of female who are just men disguised in a woman’s body. All women have the potential to grasp and maintain power through a successful career; only in our current culture, it is seen as too difficult. I mean, the ideal woman is a fashion model for goodness sake! Yes, there is this painful idea that a woman can exist as an entity known as the ‘career woman’. This creature first appeared in the fossil record circa the second world war, but the species really began to thrive in populace during the seventies. The ‘career woman’ is, simply put, a mutant female specimen who has sacrificed her womanhood for her career. She is not expected to care for a family, and if she does she is encouraged to sacrifice her career; or vice versa. But of course, career and family cannot be combined by any female, not even this new ‘career woman’ type. Of course, family is only a lovely pasttime for a man, as opposed to a full-time job for a woman. Women who choose career over a family life are doomed to a lonely existence as a spinster and are missing a key organ that is a key characteristic of the ordinary female: the heart. If these career women don’t have an interest in fashion or a particular interest in how she presents herself, she is never going to get very far. Accordingly, the process of natural selection acts to remove such women from the gene pool through discrimination and criticism. The reality is, labelling women in power as ‘career women’ is demeaning and just goes to show how shocking a woman in power still is to the public eye.

It’s not just an annoying social dilemma with a bit of ‘shock factor’ to boot. Sexism in parliament is a form of harassment and gender discrimination in the workplace. Somehow there is still a covert kind of status quo that appears to rank women incapable when it comes to making decisions and executing them.

Instead of sweeping this under the table, we need to recognise it for what it is. Sexism. In the words of Prime Minister Julia Gillard in her internationally acclaimed Misogynist speech – ‘Sexism should always be unacceptable’. Why should we take the opportunity to disregard women in politics, such as Gillard herself, and cast off our negativity simply as political banter. Women should be encouraged to speak out and be passionate about social justice issues; to be honest and assertive, not be afraid to have leadership qualities and to be empowered. Looking forward to the future, I think that our country and the global community have a huge potential for equality in Parliament.

Instead of looking to others and waiting for this thing we call society to pick up its game, you, the people sitting in this room right now, need to recognise you are a part of this society and what you say, do and – even more importantly – think really impacts on even big things like equality for women in Parliament.

For if not now, when? If not here, where? If not you, who? This change starts with you and it starts when you assess your own behaviours and realise that sexism is everywhere – even in your own subconscious mind.

We hope this short speech has perhaps opened your mind to the possibilities for women. Imagine a world where women were given equal opportunity to participate in politics at a Parliamentary level, and imagine a world where the new glasses of a female Prime Minister didn’t make frontpage headline news.

So good evening. We hope you’ve learnt something new and we hope you can question your own thinking enough to see more women in power, and thus more women in Parliament. Achieving this will open the window of opportunity for Australian women, which make up 50% of the population, to have equal representation in decision making for the country.

Slut: A Myth

This article will be featured in Wom*news 9: Myths

Trigger warning for discussion of sexual assault.

You are fifteen and dislike your crush’s girlfriend. You call her a slut. You are eighteen and about to go out clubbing for the first time. Your mother looks you up and down and says she didn’t raise a slut. You are twenty and the boy you are fucking calls you a slut the one night you refuse to have sex.

Everyone knows that the word “slut” has power, whether we agree with it or not.
It is used to shame and degrade women and, more importantly, to put them in a box with a label that says “you’re not human here” and to make sure they stay there. Whilst there are many different variables in the slut-shaming game, the objective remains the same: to ensure women’s behaviour is deemed “acceptable” by societal terms, and to make sex a source of shame and not power. In a culture that is so concerned with labels and definitions, one has to pose the question: what is a slut? After years of being called a slut, of hearing my friends being called sluts I can only assume that a slut is a woman who doesn’t adhere to every societal expectation heaped upon her. Continue reading

The 2012-2013 Australian Federal Budget and how its impact upon the world’s poorest women could not have been less

By Madeline Price

The face of poverty that the Australian public is constantly bombarded with, is one of a malnourished child, curled in the fetal position on the dirt floor of an hut in a poor African village. Yet this image tragically marginalises the wider picture – these malnourished children cannot exist without the women who birth them.

As many of my readers know, I am a big advocate for maternal health in the developing world. Maternal and prenatal care, coupled with the education of girls and women, are two key factors that are stepping stones for a countries’ population to diminish the poverty cycle and improve the countries’ economy. Yet, the former of these factors, was not reflected at all in the recent Federal Government Budget for 2012-2013. The Federal Government Budget (the Budget) for 2012-2013, devoted over $21 billion (1.56% of our Gross National Income) to defence. In comparison, a mere $5.2 billion (over the next four years) has been devoted to foreign aid. That is the equivalent of 0.35% of our Gross National Income (GNI) and less than 2% of our total Federal Government expenditure. We are spending almost four times more on defence than poverty eradication in a time where Australia isn’t even at war.

Granted, this years Budget has increased its expenditure on foreign aid dramatically since the 2001-2002 Budget, which devoted a mere $2.75 billion, or 0.40% of the GNI. However, as evident within the numbers alone, the 2001-2002 Budget devoted a whole 0.05% more of the GNI to foreign aid, than our current 2012-2013 Budget does. This is, however, still a far cry from the previously promised 0.5% by 2015 (one of the Australian Government’s Millennium Goal promises).

However, what may be more shocking than those low figures and the irresponsible spending of the government itself, may be the organisations and projects our foreign aid funding goes towards. As alluded to previously, the foreign aid expenditure of the government goes predominantly towards the eradication of poverty, with little, nay, no concern for such significant issues as maternal health. It must be said – there is no point attempting to eradicate poverty, when no one will live to have that first meal you provide.

Maternal health is a vitally important issue and key to assistance in the developing world. However, the Budget’s foreign aid component devotes all its expenditure to the eradication of poverty and the promotion of agriculture and education. Specifically, spending over $384 million in the Pacific region on the immunisation of children, the promotion of higher-education and providing drinkable water to one city, spending over $208 million on school equipment and enrolments in Burma and Laos, spending $97 million on the Pacific Police Service (including training and leadership programs), and $190 million in Afghanistan on improving school facilities and the Afghan National Police. Notably, none of these programs are tailored specifically towards women or girls, when, in all of the above listed countries, they are statistically more likely to suffer from poverty affliction, sex trafficking and a lacking of education.

What is most of interest, however, are the organisations that the Budget pushes its foreign aid through. UNICEF, the World Bank Group, the Asian Development Bank and the World Food Programme are the top listing organisations that the Australian Government funds with its foreign aid resources. However, these are some of the worst organisations to do so, with high administrative costs and relatively low impact in the regions requiring it. Australia’s foreign aid has little impact worldwide. The Australian Government is even phasing out funding in India and China – two of the worst hit regions for maternal health.

Take UNICEF, for instance, only 68% of their expenditure goes to their programs, programs of which are predominantly situated in highly populated areas – not the regional and rural areas where aid is most needed. Not only that, these ‘program costs’ include the costs of educating the Australian public on issues of aid awareness, so those UNICEF’s advertisements you see on television, those little change packets on QANTAS flights and those people standing outside the Valley train station are all included in the ‘program’ costs. These programs are not necessarily helping those people who need it most, they are trying to get more funds raised. To put this into monetary perspective, in 2011, UNICEF spent over $900 thousand on ‘community education’ alone. $1.2 million was spent on administrative expenses and a mere 15 times that was spent on actual overseas programs. And this is just one of the organisations that our foreign aid supports.

The Asian Development Bank, an organisation directly providing aid to only the Asia and Pacific region, emphasises even more wasted Australian aid. In 2011, $1.36 million of their budget went towards the refurbishment of their office facilities, $2.94 million went towards a technology upgrade and automation systems, and $2.6 million went towards the acquisition of vehicles, computers, furniture, office equipment and security. They also spent over $378 000 in operational expenses (salaries, relocations, travel) and $90 000 in administrative costs. For an organisation with only a $21 billion budget (the same as our defence force), these administrative and staff costs do take quite a large chunk out.

Additionally, all four of the organisations that the Budget funds through our foreign aid program, focus predominantly on the eradication of poverty and education, completely disregarding such things as maternal health.

You may be querying why I keep referring to this concept of maternal health and why it is such a big issue. Put simply, the health of women should be a forefront issue in today’s society. Consider the reproductive cycle itself – without women, there aren’t children. Shouldn’t this fact by itself be enough to push maternal health to the top of the list of global issues? Perhaps not. But consider this, over 1 700 women die each day from preventable difficulties in labour. If such organisations as the ones previously mentioned allocated funding towards maternal health, up to 90% of these deaths could be avoided.

Alternatively, if the Budget allocated our foreign aid to organisations tackling issues such as these – organisations with lower administrative costs and greater impact – these deaths could be prevented. In 2001, UNICEF itself, whilst not tackling the issue directly is happy to pursue research on it, estimated [conservatively] that women in Sub-Saharan Africa stand a one in 16 chance of dying during pregnancy or childbirth, an horrific figure in comparison to the one in 2 800 chance a woman in the developed world has. More recently, in 2005, the World Health Organisation released figures stating that 536 000 women died in pregnancy or childbirth in that year alone. Our foreign aid focuses immensely on the Asia region – these 536 000 deaths occurred in Asia and Africa combined. Obviously, our foreign aid is overlooking an immense obstruction of justice by not supporting programs directed at maternal health in Asia.

However, that face of poverty I alluded to at the beginning of this article – one of a malnourished child – can directly relate to maternal health as well. It is estimated that greater than 20% of the diseases in children below the age of five directly correlates to poor maternal health and nutrition, in addition to the quality of care throughout delivery. Furthermore, annually, over eight million babies die during delivery or their first week of life. This emphasises how maternal health relates directly to other problems of poverty, disease and education – solve one and a chain effect can occur.

By far the most reliable and confronting record of maternal mortality remains the Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR). This measures the number of deaths to women due to pregnancy-related complications, including childbirth, per 100 000 live births. To compare, Ireland, the safest place on earth to go through pregnancy and childbirth, has a Maternal Mortality Ratio of just one. This means that, for every 100 000 births, only one woman is lost. South Asia, on the other hand, has a MMR of 490. This includes the development capital of India, which, for all its claims of progress in the economic stakes, still provides women with a one in 70 chance of dying during childbirth in her lifetime and this is one of the countries our government has decided to cut foreign aid to! Comparatively, sub-Saharan Africa has a MMR of 900, whilst Sierra Leone takes the cake at 2 100 deaths per 100 000 live births. Globally, a mere 13 developing countries account for over 70% of maternal deaths.

However, as was alluded to earlier, maternal death isn’t the only issue of concern under the broad spectrum of maternal health. For every woman who dies during childbirth or pregnancy, another 30 suffer lifelong pain, illness or permanent disability. Whilst obstructed labour, sepsis and anaemia are all widely known, the most common and horrific injury, is that of fistula. This occurs, predominantly during prolonged labour, when tissues within the birth canal are deadened from days of pressure from the baby’s skull. Following the removal of the deceased baby, these tissues slowly start to fall away, leaving gaping holes. These holes allow for leakage from the bladder and rectum into the vagina causing uncontrollable flow and incontinency. Without an operation to repair the fistula, the woman suffers abrasions to her genital area and sores down her legs due to the acidity of her urine leaking from her bowels, a foul rotting smell emitting from her body and social exclusion. Often, and specifically within rural regions where the majority of aid organisations fail to operate, the woman is branded as cursed, moved to a hut far on the outskirts of the village and forced to live out the remainder of her life fending off wild animals at night and making do within her hut during the day. Whilst figures are inaccurate due to the inability to collect adequate data, it is estimated that over 80 000 women develop fistula every year, and an unknown number commit suicide, believing it is preferable to life. These deaths are predominantly preventable if our aid funding was directed in the right direction.

Many would argue that it is too optimistic, too unreasonable, to suggest that aid funding should be redirected – another problem will always arise that the public believes the funding should be directed towards. However, maternal health is a solvable issue that impacts directly upon the wider issues of poverty and health. If women and their children begin life without difficulty, the opportunities their lives could provide them with are endless. Health is a vitally important area of aid work – if women are healthy, their children will be healthy at birth (even better, they will survive the birthing process!) and it has been proven that healthy babies grow up healthier and more receptive to education. From this, benefits continue to arise – healthy babies grow into healthier children, who are more receptive to education, leading them to learn more and receive higher paying employment opportunities, improving the economy of the entire country and leading to self-fulfilling aid programs directed by that country itself. This may seem optimistic, but it has been proven that small-scale operations targeting a simple problem (such as maternal health) can have an immense effect on larger social issues such as poverty and education.

I am ever the optimist, I accept that, and I accept that not everyone will see this as as big an issue as I do, but I ask – simply to show the Australian Federal Government that they need to review the organisations they fund – each of you who reads this to sign a petition imploring the government to review what projects and organisations they fund and direct more funding towards the issue of maternal health. My goal would be to get 1 700 women (or men) to sign this petition – names and faces to go with the 1 700 women who die in labour each day.

The link to this petition is below. I also ask you to pass this on.

Petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/the-australian-federal-government-direct-foreign-aid-funding-towards-proven-programs

References

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