From the magic of the Matildas World Cup journey to the roaring success of Barbie, 2023 has undeniably been a year of celebration for gender equality. Finally, girls and women are receiving the acknowledgement they deserve across sports and entertainment.
Yet according to sobering statistics from the World Economic Forum, it will still take 131 years until the world sees gender equality – meaning a girl born in 2062 in Australia still won’t see gender equality in her lifetime.
With the world celebrating the power, determination and agency of girls – and calling to attention the unique issues and barriers they face on this special day – a collective of Australian celebrities and sports stars, including Emily Gielnik (Matildas forward/striker) and Akec Makur Chuot (ALFW Hawthorn player) have joined forces with girls rights charity Plan International Australia to demand a prioritisation of girls’ rights in Australia and around the globe.
These remarkable sports role models unite with influential gender equality trailblazers including television presenters Melissa Leong and Jan Fran, authors Jamila Rizvi and Benjamin Law, youth advocate Yasmin Poole and anti-violence campaigner Tarang Chawla, all rallying together for International Day of the Girl (Oct 11).
From child and forced marriage to being denied an education, all around the world, girls are still subjected to exclusion, inequality and human rights abuses every single day.
To put this into perspective, based on the average 90-minute length of a soccer game, Ms Gielnik would need to play 765,564 full games consecutively in a row before the world sees gender equality – something she said was mind boggling and terrifying.
“We cannot afford to look the other way,” she said. “The next five generations of girls will never see true equality in their lifetimes and this is unacceptable.”
“Watching all of Australia get behind the Matildas for the Women’s World Cup was such a massive high for all of us players – seeing girls and boys cheer us on and believe that they too, could be what they were seeing, was so meaningful. Just as importantly the discussions on equality that we helped ignite – the gender pay gap in society, and funding for women’s sports,” said Ms Gielnik.
“Today, and every day, I am standing with girls because we need to continue utilising this momentum. We cannot afford to be complacent. It is time to act, now.”
Plan International Australia has today also released new statistics from its ground-breaking Gender Compass study, which reveal that ordinary Australians are still lagging far behind when it comes to awareness of gender equality, and that sexist views are still far too prevalent.
Worryingly, more than a third of all Australians (37%) still do not believe there is a gender pay gap, when in reality Aussie women still take home an annual salary on average $25,596 lower than their male counterparts.
Most concerning is that more than one in five (22%) of Australian parents said they did not treat their daughter equally to their son.
Just 60% of Australians believe women’s sport should have equal standing to men’s sport – a statistic AFLW star Ms Makur Chuot said was deeply disappointing, particularly given the gains in women’s sport made over the last few years. But she also believes this is something we can all work to change.
“Playing professional AFL football has changed my life… and I want to give all girls – especially those from diverse backgrounds – the self-belief that they too can follow their dreams,” she said. Ms Makur Chuot is the first AFLW player of African descent to be drafted into the league.
“I also want to use my platform to highlight the plight of girls in some of the most vulnerable communities around the world. A girl in my country of birth, South Sudan, is still more likely to die in childbirth than to complete secondary education. That is outrageous – and underscores the urgency in increased attention, resourcing and funding that enables girls everywhere to realise their rights and achieve their potential,” she said.
Plan International Australia CEO Susanne Legena said: “While there has been much to celebrate recently here in Australia, we are simultaneously seeing a range of movements and actions to curtail girls’ and women’s rights and roll back progress on gender equality globally, with particularly harsh impacts on girls: in Afghanistan girls and young women can’t attend school or university, in the US access to abortion has been curtailed and just over a year ago Mahsa Amini was murdered in Iran for not ‘covering her hair properly’ and wearing ‘tight jeans.’”
“We celebrate all girls today but know this years International Day of the Girl serves as a powerful reminder that change has not been equitable; it has been slow, it has been contested at every turn and continues to be, and many girls, especially those who face intersecting risks, are looking to remain that way for the rest of my life and theirs, and even their own children’s. How can we stand by and watch this happen?” she added.
In 2011, the United Nations declared 11 October International Day of the Girl, following advocacy by Plan International, the world’s leading girls’ rights organisation.
Plan International Australia’s new campaign to ‘Beat the Clock’, will be launched today at Federation Square, where gender quality advocates including Emily Gielnik and Akec Makur Chuot will gather to talk about ways we can all help “beat the clock”. This will be followed by a free public screening of women-led sporting classic Bend It Like Beckham, with complimentary popcorn, snacks and beverages provided.
In conjunction with the campaign, Plan International Australia is also launching its first ever International Day of the Girl Giving Day for this cause – hoping to raise $80,000 in 24 hours with the help of friends, allies and a telethon.