International Women’s Day acknowledges the work done for women’s inclusion. Understanding the difference between equality and equity invites a deeper commitment to understanding more about the experience of another.
International Women’s Day (March 8th) is an opportunity to celebrate achievements, elevate women’s visibility and develop better ways to work for a more inclusive world. Whilst successes have been achieved, there are still disparities in the gender gap across many areas of life, including equal pay, representation in various sectors and roles, and the global health and education status of women. Violence against women is also worse than that of men.
Commitment to a gender-equal world involves breaking down bias, stereotypes and discrimination that block women from moving forward. International Women's Day has been celebrated since 1911 and grew out of women’s movements in Europe and the women’s suffrage movement in the United Kingdom.
Australia first recognised International Women's Day in 1928 when a women’s movement called for equal pay for equal work, an eight-hour working day for women retail workers and paid leave. The colour purple symbolising dignity and loyalty, is identified with International Women’s Day and stems from its association with the women’s suffrage movement.
In 2023 a key focus of education is developing community awareness about the difference between equality and equity. Often these words are used interchangeably, but they are not the same. International Women's Day says equality means that each individual or group is given the same resources or opportunities, whereas equity recognises different circumstances. As a result, resources and opportunities are adjusted to ensure an equal outcome. An example could be specific support offered by community-controlled organisations to assist women from diverse cultural backgrounds achieve their academic goals.
Therefore, a key to achieving equity is to address structural or systemic barriers that consider individual, local and historical circumstances. Understanding the difference between equality and equity is an insight that sheds light on many areas of justice and invites a deeper commitment to understand more about the experience of another and work together for long-term change.
Sr Caroline Vaitkunas RSM
Peace, Ecology and Justice Office
Columban Mission Centre, Essendon