Today’s post introduces GEN VIC, a new Victorian-based organisation aiming to promote gender equity, women’s health and the prevention of violence against women.
GEN VIC’s Convener Kristine Olaris and Manager Jacinta Masters describe the emergence of GEN VIC from a background of women’s health advocacy as an organization able to respond to current concerns about gender equity and violence against women.
They outline how GEN VIC will work with other individuals and organisations across a range of sectors by providing central advocacy and supporting women’s voices to directly influence policy and programs in gender equity and women’s health.
Kristine Olaris and Jacinta Masters write:
Gender Equity Victoria (GEN VIC) is a new peak body for gender equity, women’s health and the prevention of violence against women. GEN VIC was launched on 24th April 2018 by Minister Hutchins, the Minister for Women and for the Prevention of Family Violence.
GEN VIC is committed to equality, wellbeing, and freedom from violence for every woman and girl in every community of Victoria.
GEN VIC’s purpose to advocate, influence and collaborate to improve outcomes in gender equity, women’s health and in the prevention of violence against women.
GEN VIC will:
- ensure women’s voices are integral to policy, legislation and services;
- deliver and support coordinated and evidence-informed women’s health promotion activities; and
- facilitate collaboration and partnerships.
Membership is open to organisations and individuals across Victoria who advance gender equity and hold values that align with feminist principles (see further details below).
GEN VIC grew from the Women’s Health Association of Victoria, or WHAV. WHAV started back in 1994, set up by a group of feminist advocates committed to gender equity and women’s health.
WHAV was a peak body focused on the health, safety and wellbeing of Victorian women. Its membership was small, consisting primarily of women’s health organisations. WHAV has for many years been working behind the scenes to make individual, community and societal change. This paved the way for a more broadly based peak body focused on gender equity, women’s health and the prevention of violence against women – Gender Equity Victoria.
At the launch of Safe and Strong, Victoria’s Gender Equality Strategy, the late Fiona Richardson, described gender equality as a perpetual game of snakes and ladders. She saw the important role that a peak with a broader membership could play in ensuring that we safeguard the progress that has been made and continue to drive gender equitable change, thus ending the game of snakes and ladders. She encouraged and supported us to think about how we might reinvent ourselves to respond to this need.
The need for a gender equity peak
We need a gender equity peak to provide a strong, independent, feminist voice to keep gender equity and women’s health front and centre in our society, to provide a collective voice for women and for organisations working to progress gender equity and to ensure that our achievements withstand election cycles and persist over the longer term.
We also need a peak which will take an intersectional approach to its work, recognising that gender is not a binary, and that the experience of gender inequality and the status of women in our society varies because of the many intersecting and compounding forms of discrimination that women face. This is the intersection of gender with disability, age, race, class and sexuality.
We know that Minister Hutchins, Minister for Women and for the Prevention of Family Violence, is a committed advocate for women. We are fortunate to have a Health Minister, Minister Hennessy who is driving a policy agenda to improve women’s sexual and reproductive health.
And we know that there are good women and men across all political parties who will fight for women’s issues.
However, social change takes time, and we know that governments change, politicians change, priorities change. We need a peak to ensure that this commitment is continued throughout these changes – to ensure that we are experiencing more ladders than snakes in our progress.
Over the past few years we have seen community support for gender equity and for the prevention of violence grow on a global, national and state level.
At a global level we have seen the Women’s Marches and the rise of the #metoo movement with people across the globe saying enough is enough and demanding change.
At a national level we have a National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children and organisations like Our Watch and ANROWS. We had a Royal Commission into Family Violence, and funding has begun to flow to the prevention of violence against women. For the first time we have a national framework for the prevention of violence against women, Change the Story.
We also have the women’s AFL league something that many of us never thought we would see this in our lifetimes! How fantastic to see those young women footballers becoming role models – and the resultant, phenomenal 76% national increase in the number of AFL women’s teams. It clearly shows that you can’t be what you can’t see.
In Victoria, we currently have an array of policies and plans that align with our priorities and we are thrilled about the planned statutory prevention agency, Respect Victoria, which will assist in driving an enduring focus on the prevention of family violence and all forms of violence against women. We are also seeing Sexual and Reproductive Health hubs being rolled out across the state.
There are now gender equity and prevention of violence against women projects and programs spanning across many sectors and settings such as local governments, public and private organisations, media, schools, arts, sport.
Gen Vic will play an important role in supporting these individuals and organisations and through providing central advocacy and a way in which the voices of women can directly influence policy and programs in gender equity and women’s health.
A peak for gender equity is well overdue. While women still earn less than men; while women are underrepresented in our parliament and in positions of power and influence; while women’s autonomy and control over their own bodies continues to be challenged, and our access to sexual and reproductive health services are limited; while women experience sexual harassment in their schools, universities, workplaces, in pubs and clubs, online and when walking down the street; and while the family home remains the most unsafe place to be for way too many Victorian women…we need an independent, collective voice to fight for change.
The World Economic Forum tells us that at the current rate of change it will take 217 years to achieve gender equality. We can all agree that this is unacceptable. We need to do whatever we can to hasten progress towards gender equality.
If you are in Victoria and support our vision please join us at Gender Equity Victoria, to end the game of snakes and ladders. Together we CAN achieve equality, wellbeing and freedom from violence for every woman and girl, in every community of Victoria.
Kristine Olaris is the Convenor of Gender Equity Victoria. Kristine is an accomplished leader with substantial experience in the women’s, community and health sectors, She is driven by a commitment to social justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. Kristine is also the Chief Executive Officer at Women’s Health East and a member of the Ministerial Council on Women’s Equality. You can follow Kristine on twitter @kristineolaris
Jacinta Masters is the Manager of Gender Equity Victoria. She has over 10 years experience in family violence, women’s health and homelessness sectors, and is currently completing a Juris Doctor. You can follow Gender Equity Victoria on twitter @genderequityvic
To express interest in becoming an organisational or individual member see www.genvic.org.au
For further information:
GEN VIC brochure https://genvic.org.au/pdf/Gender-Equity-Victoria-Brochure-WEB.pdf
GEN VIC strategic plan https://genvic.org.au/pdf/Gender-Equity-Victoria-Strategic-Plan-2018-2021-WEB.pdf