The Australian High Commission marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women with a fundraising Charity Dinner last week. The Australian High Commission, in partnership with Les Chefs du Coeur Association, hosted a White Ribbon Charity Dinner, which raised over Rs 400,000 for local NGO, Gender Links’ “Safe Haven Half Way Home” for young women who are victims of abuse.
The attendance for this event comprised eminent guests, including the newly appointed Minister of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare, Roubina Jadoo-Jaunbocus, and the Mauritian and Australian business communities. The event was the Australian High Commission’s flagship activity for the 2017 International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, observed on 25th November. This kicked off 16 days of activism against gender based violence, which will end on 10th December, marking International Human Rights Day.
A number of leading local businesses, artists, members of the business community and legal and judicial sectors including Women in Uniform supported the White Ribbon Charity Dinner, and took the White Ribbon pledge never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women.
Commenting at the White Ribbon Charity Dinner, the Australian High Commissioner to Mauritius, HE Ms Jenny Dee, said that the Australian Government has a steadfast and ongoing commitment to ending violence against women and girls and supporting gender equality. Gender equality and women’s empowerment account for at least 80% of Australia’s overseas aid program.
“Through the Australian Awards scholarship program, the Australian High Commission’s small grants community development program, and visits by Australian specialists - including Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls - we have been sharing our experiences and providing support and capacity building to Mauritian government officials, community groups, legal practitioners, front line police officers, business groups and women entrepreneurs to support gender equity, combat gender-based violence, and promote women’s economic empowerment.”
She recalled that the High Commission has received such strong support from our partner for this Charity Dinner, Les Chefs du Coeur, and the local corporate sector and local artists. “It shows a real interest to work together to recognise the challenges and commit to prevent violence against women.”
The White Ribbon Initiative
In 1989, on the afternoon of the 6th December, a student at the University of Montreal massacred 14 of his fellow female students. His actions traumatised a nation and brought the issue of violence against women to the forefront of our collective consciousness. In response, a group of men in Toronto decided to speak out and work to stop men’s violence against women.
In 1991 they initiated a male-led movement known as White Ribbon, with an annual awareness raising event – White Ribbon Day held between 25th November and 6th December. The initiative is now an international effort in over 57 countries where men and boys are working together to end violence against women.
On average, at least one woman a week is killed by a partner or former partner in Australia. One in three Australian women has experienced physical violence since the age of 15. One in five Australian women has experienced sexual violence, and one in four Australian women has experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner.
Australia has developed a number of initiatives to address Gender Based Violence and empower women. One of them is the Male Champions of Change program. The innovative program was founded in 2010 by the former Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, together with a group of senior Australian businessmen committed to increasing women’s representation in leadership positions.
The program was born from Ms Broderick’s conviction that women could not achieve gender equality by acting alone, but also had to engage men in leadership positions to, in turn, empower women.
The Male Champions of Change program has grown steadily since its inception, finding a receptive audience amongst male leaders in the public and private sectors. The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade has developed a Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Strategy, which establishes three priorities to guide the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s work on gender equality: enhancing women’s voices in decision-making, leadership and peace-building; promoting women’s economic empowerment; and ending violence against women and girls.
The Department has also developed its own Women in Leadership (WIL) strategy, which won the Australian Public Service Gender Equality Award for 2017. The implementation of the strategy has driven deep cultural change in the department, which helps staff reach their full potential and enhance productivity. There are now many active male and female WIL advocates across the department.