On International Women’s Day I attended the UN Women Breakfast celebrating the 100th anniversary of IWD. I was so inspired I need to share. After the event was over, I found myself sitting at Darling Harbor on a bench overlooking the water on a beautiful sunny day in Sydney, feeling immensely grateful and lucky. The room was packed full with 1700 people, mostly women, of all races, ages and backgrounds – school-aged girls, corporate women, entrepreneurs, mothers and grandmothers. There was an entertaining MC (Philippa McDonald) corporate sponsors (Gail Kelly from Westpac) and the usual dignitaries (Governor of NSW, Marie Bashir) speaking. There were two high school students (Sharon Mo from James Ruse Agricultural High School and Simone Chin from PLC Sydney) who spoke with such intelligence, confidence and knowledge that I am assured we are all in good hands with this next generation of young women coming through. The main talent was Justice Unity Dow, an inspirational woman from Botswana who was responsible for changing the law in her country to gain equal rights for women. Her story is fascinating. Married to an American, Unity discovered that the Citizenship Act denied Botswana citizenship to her children on the basis that her husband is a foreigner, even though she herself is a citizen of Botswana. At that point tradition in Botswana stated that nationality was based only on the father, that the mother’s nationality was not relevant. It reflected what was common in all of Botswana at that time – that men are the leaders and women the followers, the second-class citizens. “I don’t think so!” was Unity’s reaction to this “mistake” in the legislation. Incensed, Unity did what any good woman who is also a lawyer does – she sued the government. She lobbied people from all over the world to write letters to the government in her support. The letters poured in. So much so that the postal service was jammed up! The politicians called Unity to tell her to make her people stop. The timing was right. It was just before the UN World Conference on Women in Beijing, 1995. Botswana did not want to be one of those countries that are embarrassed globally about their treatment of women. After the hardest five years of her life Unity won the case and the subsequent appeal. In addition to the change in the Citizenship Act, Botswana also formed an agency within the government that is combing through all laws and ensuring that women are not disadvantaged. Unity also went on to become Botswana’s first female High Court judge. Unity’s desire to keep her family together and to right a wrong has huge flow on effects for generations of Botswanian women to come. That is awe inspiring to me. Unity spoke of all women’s desire to have peace – peace in our families, peace in our schools and peace globally. Without proper equity (gender, economic) peace will not exist. Unity – her name says it all. I feel honoured to have met this feisty, funny and inspirational woman. She gives me strength and courage to ask what can I do to change things for the better? For more information on Unity Dow and her four books visit www.spinifexpress.com.au/Bookstore/author/id=4.
About the Author
Amy has over 25 years of experience across small business, not-for-profit and corporate foundation sectors as a senior manager, founder and CEO in Australia and North America. She is currently Scholarship Program Director at Westpac Scholars Trust, which she joined five years ago during the setup of the Trust, a...
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