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RespectNOW: Lauren Jackson on gender inequality

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For Lauren Jackson, gender stereotypes are a constant presence in her life. As Australia’s most well-known female basketballer, and having played professionally since the age of 16, Lauren is used to being in the public eye, and dealing with the persistent negative stereotypes about women’s sport.

“Sport is one of the areas where gender equality is highlighted,” Lauren says.

“Even more so now, because the government has stopped putting a lot of money into sport, and women’s sport has suffered. It’s ingrained in us to think that women’s sport isn’t as good as men’s sport, and there needs to be a push for equality for future generations coming through, and more of a focus on promoting women’s sport.”

This is just one example, Lauren believes, of how gender inequality pervasively affects our lives – an opinion that has been further informed through her studies. As well as playing with the University of Canberra Capitals, Lauren is currently completing a Bachelor of Arts degree through Macquarie University, with a major in Gender Studies.

Her passion for combating gender stereotypes is just one of the reasons why she is a ‘Respect Champion’ for YWCA Canberra’s upcoming RespectNOW campaign.

RespectNOW raises awareness of the need for primary prevention programs to address violence against women. It also calls on the ACT Government to instate funding for YWCA Canberra’s respectful relationships program for 8-12 year olds, Respect, Communicate, Choose, into all public primary schools in Canberra.

“Respectful relationships education is so important,” Lauren says.

“I think it’s not something kids are really taught from a young age, and being able to get to kids early and give them the opportunity to prepare for the relationships they’ll have in the future, and to know what a respectful relationship is, is really critical.

“Knowing how to treat other people, how to create boundaries and things like that – it’s something that’s seriously lacking. Even in my life, I wish I had the opportunity when I was younger to learn more about relationships, because otherwise you feel underprepared.”

Lauren is a strong believer in the power of primary prevention to cause cultural change, and feels the focus on learning about gender equality through Respect, Communicate, Choose is one of the program’s key strengths.

“I think gender stereotypes are entrenched and engrained in our culture from the minute we’re born,” she says. “Primary prevention programs, and time put towards talking to children about gender is so important. That’s why I’m so supportive of Respect, Communicate, Choose, and why I want to advocate for it – because I think kids need access to this kind of information.”

Given that we’ve already seen deaths from domestic violence this year, primary prevention needs to be a priority, Lauren believes.

“It’s frightening that two women each week are being killed in their homes, and it’s not being reported. That should be an issue that’s on the front of every newspaper,” she says. “I mean, people are talking about kids being killed because of alcohol fuelled violence but they’re not talking about violence in the home. And that’s where a lot of these issues really start – in the home.

“I think that’s why getting to kids early – when they are being cultured by their families in part, as they start to learn about the world – and being able to talk to them and make them aware of what domestic violence is, and giving them access to speak freely about issues they have at home, should be a priority.”

YWCA Canberra will be launching RespectNOW on this Sunday 8 March on International Women’s Day. Keep an eye on www.ywca-canberra.org.au, or on Facebook and Twitter for more information on how you can get involved.

HerCanberra is proud to be a media partner to the RespectNOW campaign and YWCA.

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