Hundreds of people donned as much green as they could find on March 10 and crammed into the Irish Murphy’s pub in Brisbane to start their celebrations for St. Patrick’s Day a week early. But on the opposite street corner, about 80 women and their supporters gathered in recognition of the many injustices still faced by women in Australia and around the world today.
Ana Borges from Women’s House opened the International Women's Day rally with a powerful statement that recognised the world of contradictions women live in, where their every move is subject to criticism by the status quo.
Borges said: “[Stopping] violence against women has not progressed in the way early feminists hoped for. Every day we at Women’s House are confronted by the pain, shame and bruises of women who feel that somehow it was entirely their fault.”
Another speaker, Ellen Morahan, said: “I’ve felt unsafe at family gatherings, in cafes — places you would consider very safe.”
ALP Senator Clare Moore encouraged the crowd to celebrate women’s achievements, among which she listed paid parental leave and same-sex marriage rights.
But Carole Ferrier, a professor of literature and women’s studies at the University of Queensland, insisted that “in actual fact, things are probably getting worse” for Australian women.
Ferrier said that the few Australian women in very powerful positions — such as PM Julia Gillard, Queensland premier Anna Bligh, and Governor General Quentin Bryce — do not mean much for everyday women.
Scarlet, an activist with the Pro-Choice Action Collective, told the rally: “It’s really quite baffling and disappointing, in a society that likes to see itself as progressive, that women still don’t have easy and affordable access to abortion.”
The rally then marched through the city, over the Victoria St Bridge and through to West End. They chanted “not the church, not the state, women must decide their fate” and “the women united will never be defeated”.