International Women's Day is a small step on the long road to equality

Harrison Vesey is a journalist based in Blacktown.

Harrison Vesey is a journalist based in Blacktown.

Last Wednesday was a day of mixed emotion for women in Blacktown.

March 8 – International Women’s Day – should have been a day of celebration; a time to recognise the incredible achievements of female leaders, innovators and carers around the world.

Instead, we were all given a sobering reminder of one of the biggest problems still holding women back: domestic violence.

Anyone can be a victim of this often-hidden scourge of our society, but the statistics show the victims are usually women, and the aggressors are usually men.

The murder of Harjit Kaur was a horrifying reminder that domestic violence can rear its ugly head in any community. She was the ninth woman to be murdered in Australia this year. Sadly, this tragedy is just one part of a national scandal, and it should remind us all why this day is so important. We should celebrate how far we’ve come, but also note how far we have to go.

Two weeks ago, the Parramatta Eels decided to retain the services of Kenny Edwards after he pleaded guilty to domestic violence. Semi Radradra is still playing while he awaits his next court date for accusations he physically, emotionally and financially abused his former partner.

The Parramatta club, like other sporting clubs, makes the right noises about the seriousness of domestic violence, and “counselling” players who have done the wrong thing. But if actions speak louder than words, then the message seems to be that if you’re good enough at your job, then you can get away with violence against women.

Blacktown City’s Woman of the Year, Elfa Moraitakis, said women need to work with men to educate and empower other women.

It’s increasingly clear that women are already doing the work, but us men are the ones holding them back. Whether it’s through things that are clearly wrong, such as violence and intimidation, or the more subtle barriers of outdated attitudes, subconscious bias, and inaction, men are too often putting up road blocks instead of paving the way forward.

If we are serious about stopping violence against women, it’s time we all did something. Have that awkward conversation with your mate who oversteps a boundary. Give money to a women’s shelter. Or if you’re not going to help society move forward, then at least get out of the way.

  • Harrison Vesey is a reporter for Fairfax Media in north-west Sydney.