Aussie Female Politician Beefing Up Gender Equality & Prioritizing Women’s Rights

natasha stott despoja

If you aren’t from Australia there’s a good chance you haven’t heard of Natasha Stott Despoja. She is the former leader of the Australian Democrats political party, but since retiring officially from politics, her life has been even busier and probably more involved with the Australian public than ever before.

She is also an author and has written several books about feminism and women, as well as contributing regular articles to various magazines and media websites. She is passionate about human rights, specifically women and children, and has worked with Oxfam in Africa.

In July 2013, Natasha was named Chair of the Foundation to Prevent Violence against women and their children, based in Melbourne, Australia. In December 2013 Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced the appointment of Natasha as Australia’s new ambassador for women and girls. It seems things have come full circle for the 44 year old, and at the age of 26 was the youngest woman ever to be elected into Australian Parliament (until Sarah Hanson-Young beat her record in 2007 being elected at the age of 25). High five to Australian women pursuing political careers at such a young age!

To promote her new role, Natasha wrote a piece in The Guardian to outline not only what she is doing, but why it is important to everyone to embrace women’s rights internationally. She starts of by saying that for women to be equal participants in public life is essential.

Her visit to the Family Violence Support Center at the Regional Assistance Mission in the Solomon Islands on December 17, 2013 was a clear reminder just why gender empowerment and equality are going to be a major priority as part of the Australian Government’s foreign policy.

natasha stott despoja

“There is much to be done to promote equality between men and women around the world and, especially, the Indo-Pacific region. Advocacy for women and girls in our region is a particular priority not just because this is where we can be most effective, but because this is where we need to be most effective,” she says.

Natasha says less than 5% of elected representatives in the Pacific-region parliament are women, and two thirds of women in that area experience sexual assault. They have developed their first initiative called Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development which aims to end violence as well as equip women economically in life. It is a 10 year plan which involves not only the Pacific Region but they will be expanding to other regions also.

It is clear why Natasha is determined to empower women. Having been involved in politics from such a young age she has no doubt seen the impact empowered women can have on other women in communities. Using her position of influence and decades of knowledge is going to be invaluable to this cause.

“I want to see women and girls in our region taking on leadership roles in their communities, in elected positions and in business. I want women to have the knowledge and support they need to run a successful business and increase their families’ incomes. I want women and girls in our region to have access to health services for them and their families. I want all girls to have the chance to go to school and to find meaningful employment, to enjoy both equality of opportunity and equality of aspiration. I want women to be equal participants in conflict prevention, resolution and peace-building. And finally, I want women and girls to be free of all forms of violence, including sexual violence in conflict situations.”

Natasha explains that women’s rights aren’t just benefiting the fairer sex, but will impact whole communities and economies if they have the opportunity to influence future generations.

“All people prosper when women are equal participants in politics and the economy; all of us thrive when women’s rights are upheld. ”

Love this woman! What a perfect message to end the year on. Like Hilary Clinton has said in the past, women’s rights aren’t just women’s rights, they are human rights and we hope 2014 will be the banner year for more initiatives like what the Australian Government are starting to do for women in the Pacific region.

natasha stott despoja

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