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Marie Wilson famously said, “You can’t be what you can’t see”.
In Australia, women comprise only 28.6% of the members in the House of Representatives. Among that group of female elected officials, women of colour and young women are underrepresented and although the ACT election brought a record number of women to parliament, there is more to be done.
That’s why today, on the International Day of the Girl Child, young women around Australia will take over local Members of the Legislative Assembly’s positions under Plan International’s #GirlsTakeover.
“#GirlsTakeOver is an international program run by Plan International on International Day of the Girl Child to shine a light on the gender gap which continues to exist between girls and boys. The Australian Takeovers will be part of 600 international Takeovers over 60 countries globally,” explains Ashleigh Streeter, co-organiser of the Canberra Girls Takeover.
“Here in Australia, we have a clear gender gap in our political representation. Only 28.6% of our federal politicians are female, and this represents a broader trend of women being under-represented throughout leadership positions. Women are perfectly capable, yet we see incredibly low numbers of women entering politics at all levels.”
This is the real reason behind the takeover – so that girls can see what they might someday hope to be.
The Australian Takeover is currently the 6th largest globally, with six MLA’s offices being taken over today, Wednesday 11 October – Tara Cheyne, Nicole Lawder, Yvette Berry, Elizabeth Lee, Giulia Jones and Caroline Le Couteur.
But that’s just the beginning.
“On October the 18, we’re taking over the offices of 17 federal MPs including Clare Moore, Richard di Natale, Nick Xenophon and Simon Birmingham,” explains Ashleigh.
So who exactly is now seated in our halls of power for the day?
“The participants were selected through an online competition run by Plan International Australia,” says Ashleigh. “Applicants were asked to respond to the question “If you were Prime Minister for the day, what would your first change be?” We specifically encouraged girls who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and girls from diverse background to apply.”
“The calibre of participants was outstanding and we couldn’t be more excited to have 19 incredibly passionate Canberra girls aged between 18-27 participate in the program.”
As for what these select few will be doing on the day, Ashleigh says it’s all about starting a dialogue.
“We need to have a conversation which not only recognises the gender disparity in Australian politics but which aspires to overcome the barriers which hold women back,” she explains.
“Each of the participants will take over the office of one of our elected officials for the day and as part of this, shall be presenting Plan International Australia’s 2017 She Can Lead report. This report identifies the gender gaps in various areas of leadership and identifies the barriers to overcoming these as identified by young women.”
“The report also makes a number of recommendations as to how we can work towards political gender equality. In addition, the participants shall be making a serious of recommendations to their official as to how their official can make their portfolio or area of passion more girl-friendly.”
“We hope that this Takeover starts a conversation, enforces the capability of young women and helps to overcome existing structures which continue to challenge the entry of women into politics.”
You can keep up with #GirlsTakeover by searching the hashtag on Twitter and Instagram.