Plan International Australia statement in response to tragic death of Aiia Maasarwe

Hayley Cull, Plan International Australia’s Director of Advocacy, said:

“Once again we are mourning the tragic loss of a young woman cruelly taken from her family and friends, and standing by them in their unimaginable grief.

“Arab-Israeli woman Aiia Maasarwe was studying here in our city, as so many people from overseas do. She should have been able to enjoy a comedy show and get home safely.

“As so many of us feel personally saddened, and angered, by her death, each of us must consider what we can do to honour her memory by helping young women like her feel safe in our city.

“These tragedies must not be seen as inevitable, just as no girl or woman should accept that any abuse is just a part of life. And we all have a role to play.

“Our leaders, whether in local councils, state or federal government, as well as city planners, police and transport authorities must listen to the girls and young women who move around our city in fear. They must take all forms of street harassment and violence seriously.

“At the root of all violence against women is an inherent belief that women are not equal to men and do not deserve to feel safe. That’s why it’s time for each and every one of us to work together to tackle gender norms. We must call out unacceptable behaviour, and listen to and support young women when they tell us how they feel and what action they want taken.

“Women have grown up receiving advice on how to keep themselves safe. We’ve been told: avoid certain areas at night; don’t walk alone at night; speak to somebody on the phone if you are doing so; avoid speaking on the phone. We know these measures don’t fix the problem. It is the perpetrators who are responsible for their actions.

“Women have been changing the way they behave to keep themselves safe. Now it’s time for all of us to look at what we can do to build a society where everyone can be safe, free and equal.

“We owe it to Aiia and to each of our daughters, friends, and sisters.”

Recent Plan International studies have asked young women in Sydney and Melbourne about their experiences of harassment. That research has found:

  • 90% of young women (aged 18-25) in Sydney don’t feel safe after dark.
  • Of those who have experienced street harassment in Sydney, more than a third were first harassed between the ages of 11 and 15.
  • Over two-thirds (72%) of reported incidents in Sydney included sexual harassment of some kind.
  • 14% recorded sexual assaults.
  • In Sydney, fewer than one in 10 incidences of harassment and abuse were reported to authorities.
  • In more than two-thirds of these cases, girls and young women reported that the authorities didn’t take action.
  • Nearly half of those recording bad incidents in Sydney now avoid that area if they are alone and 12% have never gone back to that location.
  • One in four (23%) young women surveyed in Melbourne believed it was unsafe to travel alone on public transport after dark.

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About Plan International 

 Plan International is a global independent development and humanitarian organisation. We champion girls’ rights because we know that there is nowhere in the world where girls are treated as equals. We work alongside children, young people, supporters and partners to tackle the root causes of injustices facing girls and the most marginalised children.

Plan International works in more than 75 countries to help create a just world that advances children’s rights and equality for girls. Our local office, Plan International Australia funds programs to support children in more than 25 countries, as well as sponsorship programs across the federation.