Govt Appoints Global Ambassador for Women and Girls
13 September 2011 at 3:52 pm
The Gillard Government says it has continued to increase its focus on foreign aid and development with the announcement of Australia’s first Global Ambassador for Women and Girls.
Career diplomat Penny Williams has been announced as Australia’s first Global Ambassador for Women and Girls by the Minister for the Status of Women Kate Ellis Parliament House.
William’s new role will be to ensure the needs of women and girls are properly represented in Australia's overseas development program and in foreign policy more broadly.
Australia’s aid and development sector has applauded the move, saying they are ready to provide Williams with the support she needs.
Kate Ellis says the appointment shows the Government recognises that being born a girl in the world is still very different to being born a boy – girls will earn less, learn less, be less healthy and at greater risk of violence.
Ellis says the new role will help the Government build partnerships with other nations and advocate for the rights of women and girls – particularly in the Pacific region where 60% of women who are victims of domestic or family violence.
The Government says there are only a handful of similar positions in the world and Australia is the first place to place a particular focus on the experience of girls.
President of the Australian Council for International Development – the peak body for non-government aid organisations – Dr Meredith Burgmann says the women of the Pacific region are amongst the most discriminated against in the world.
Dr Burgman says women in the Pacific suffer shockingly high domestic violence and maternal death rates, do most of the work for a fraction of the male wage and have virtually no representation in public office.
She says when Australians talk about the Pacific, they often focus on the natural beauty of their region and not the endemic poverty and inequality which characterises so many of their neighbouring countries.
According to Dr Burgmann, just under 3 percent of all elected leaders in the Pacific are women – the lowest percentage in the world. Five of the 9 countries in the world that have no female representation at all levels of parliaments are in the Pacific.
Dimity Fifer, CEO of Australian Volunteers International says the Global Ambassador for Women and Girls will highlight the truth that when women are included in decision-making processes whole communities – and whole countries – benefit.
Julia Newton-Howes, CEO of CARE Australia, says research and analysis undertaken by CARE Australia has shown that if one woman is helped out of poverty, she will bring four others with her.
World Vision’s Head of International Programs Kerin Ord says the new role will ensure Australia has a coordinated, consistent and holistic approach to the human rights of women and it will make sure Australia’s voice is heard on the international stage.
Ord said World Vision welcomed the news the Ambassador’s portfolio would include a focus on violence against women.