Building Bridges squareAuthor: Bayside Baha'i Community

I wish to share some of my thoughts when attending a symposium on Sunday, 31st January, in Brighton, when eleven culturally diverse groups came together to share their experiences, culture, highlights of learning and activities to understand more fully the complex issue of “Advancing the role of women in society”. The symposium was titled ‘Building Bridges‘, organised and hosted by Bayside Baha’i community.

 

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It’s now been a century since the Suffragette movement. How do we now see gender equality? Surely, we have come a long way from just three, four generations ago.  The biggest gain it seemed to me, was a universal agreement that man and woman are equal, yet there are still glass ceilings to shatter.  Somehow our world settings are yet to catch up reflecting this equality. In our schools, universities, work places, sport, how does this gender equality play out? Legally women in Australia seemed to be completely equal to their male counterparts, but how was it that on average one woman a week was being murdered by her current or former partner and 39% of women in workplaces were experiencing sexual harassment; the contrast was stark! In hindsight, have we really progressed further than our grandparents or regressed?

Speakers from five of the groups addressed the gathering, sharing their insights, activities and goals.

Some of the highlights which stood out to me most were the programs such as mentoring of secondary school girls by older women, educational programs addressing family violence and activities to preserve and enhance cultural heritage. 

Yet the most engaging part for me was the discourse that took place after the presentations with everyone contributing in Q & A.  Participants agreed that the consciousness of our oneness as human beings served as the basis to couch the equality discourse. What makes us human, moral values like nobility, justice, respect, are neither male nor female.  We also realised it is fundamentally attitudinal changes and character traits that need to be built from childhood at home.

So educational programs are the key.  Of course, everyone realised that tackling Advancing the Role of Women in Society is a laden topic and naturally was not going to be addressed by merely having an afternoon to highlight the challenges. However, it seemed if we wanted to make a difference at the level of community, this was where it needed to start from, with the first step being for the community groups to get to know one another.

Some of the practical ideas to be further explored were educational programs at the grass roots to change the language, action and attitudes of bias, both at conscience and unconscious levels that were formed over millennia.

These educational programs should be for everyone and any age group starting from children. Taking this holistic approach could be the key to reducing the horrific stats we see today.

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All participants are looking forward to the sequel.   

For details of future roundtables/symposiums please contact 0419180799 or bayside@vic.bahai.org.au

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