“And also the issue that isn’t spoken about enough in this context, and that’s domestic violence, and preventing violence against women and girls,” Ms Bishop told the Western Suburbs Weekly before the pledge for parity-themed UN International Women’s Day today.
In Papua New Guinea, where Human Rights Watch claims up to 70 per cent of women suffer rape or sexual assault, the Department of Foreign Affairs has built a $3 million sexual assault referral centre in the nation’s town of Lae.
The need to empower women in the Pacific Region struck Ms Bishop when Solomon Island women asked her to “get us into that room” where only men were making decisions about the Melanesian archipelago’s civil war in 2002.
Ms Bishop said more work was needed for gender parity in all countries, and while laws and regulations could be made, “unconscious bias” needed to be addressed. However, she said it would be “churlish” of her to say if she had experienced gender bias because she had a successful career as a lawyer, was the Liberal Party’s deputy leader and as Australia’s first female Foreign Minister had experienced the realities of women in the Third World.
“Afghanistan is one example where through the war, and its aftermath, and the overthrow of the Taliban we have seen women and girls getting an education, being able to take their places at schools and universities, and being elected to Parliament,” Ms Bishop said.
Women who had made an impression on her were Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, for her “raw courage” and “indefatigable commitment” to tackle Pakistani and Afghani women’s low status, and US Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton.
After meeting the four influential women, what would Ms Bishop say to any young WA woman?
“I would tell them that they must not let other people define who they are, or what they are capable of achieving. Trust your own instincts, trust your own judgement and you will be able to succeed in whatever your definition of success may be,” she said.