US CONSUL General Rachel Cooke has worked around the world as a diplomat and will bring a wealth of experience to an International Women’s Day (IWD) event on March 10 at Crown.
Ms Cooke has served as Consul General since August, having worked as a diplomat for 15 years after five years at NASA and the US Environmental Protection Agency.
She will be the main speaker at Hancock Prospecting’s IWD lunch and talk about her work and the women who influenced her.
“I have had a lot of opportunities where I was often the only woman in the room,” she said.
“In places like Afghanistan almost everyone assumes it must have been quite difficult for me there, but I got to do twice as much as my male colleagues, because I interacted with Afghan women.
“I found my work in Afghanistan to be not only rewarding but compelling.”
Ms Cooke noted the Afghan constitution sets a minimum percentage of members of parliament who must be female, to assist the representation of women after many years in the shadow of the Taliban.
“Here in Australia right now the three consuls general are women,” she said.
“This is something Americans – like in Australia – have been focused on for the past 40 years, increasing the opportunities for women.
“Do we have an equal number of women in Congress or on the boards of the big corporations?
“No – but we are continually improving that situation.”
Ms Cooke said the leader who had the greatest impact on her was her great-grandmother, a suffragette in New York City.
She said people were working for women’s liberation around the world.
“In the 1960s and ’70s in Afghanistan women were doctors and taught at universities and had PhDs and that was all gone; they are working their way slowly back now,” she said.
“International Women’s Day is very important; I am pleased to see it is something celebrated here. In the US I had never even heard of it until I was working in Kyrgyzstan; and there it was huge.
“Many women there appreciated having a day like IWD.”
The IWD luncheon is in support of the Kiss Violence Against Women Goodbye campaign and run by the Momentum For Australia charity.
For tickets, visit http://momentumforumevents.com.au.
International Women’s Day is March 8.