International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrated every year on the 8th Mar as a global day dedicated to celebrate women’s achievements. It’s the day that we are called to take action on creating more equality on gender from pay, opportunities, or / and basic human rights. Gender equality is NOT a new topic, in fact IWD was established in 1900, It was around this time women gained the right to vote in many developed countries, Australia being one of the first countries commencing in South Australia in 1894 and eventually became constitutional in 1902 allowing women to stand for election. The US followed suit 2 decades later. One question remains, “Why do we still have a call to action for gender equality after almost 120 years of campaigning?” Why can’t we as society collectively embrace and eliminate gender equality issues now? Change takes time especially if it threatens the status quo, or was it the conditioning of women which inhibited them to speak up?

As a minority, being a Chinese Christian woman living in a small regional village in a Muslim dominated Indonesia, I was never aware of the meaning of equality or the fact that it even existed. My mother and her mother just accepted it was what it was as part of culture and the safety of our lives. I accepted that I had to ask permission from others from what I can wear, do, or say. My decision to migrate at 18yrs of age to Australia was the turning point in my life which enabled me to see and sense what equality was. I immediately felt safer, especially at night, even though I am alone in a foreign land. I was no longer treated as a second-class citizen and I had the same rights regardless of who I am. Or so I thought I and came to this conclusion prior to starting work in a large corporation after graduating in 2000.

As I experienced the life in the corporate world, I began to recognise the unspoken rule on the layers of equality. Whether it’s your foreign name, being single, being a mum with young kids, or the way you speak with the accent of your mother tongue limiting opportunities to be part of senior management team. These unspoken rules of society in the “lucky Country” also applied to outside corporate world and beyond skin colour, race or gender, we even discriminate based on social status, post codes, the labels on our clothes and many other things. So who’s responsible for keeping or breaking these rules? We all are. We are responsible for allowing this to happen.

I know that you will disagree with me, especially if you experienced being the recipient of inequality, however to a certain degree “we” allow this to happen through being silent. Starting from a minor thing at home, feeling unable to express your truth freely for fear of conflict or having love withdrawn, thereby not giving yourself the love and care you deserve, giving your power away or putting everyone else above you. These are all examples of allowing inequality to happen in our society. And whether you play the role as a mum, daughter, wife, or sister and or partner, you are setting the acceptable boundaries on how women should be treated.

I don’t discount the need for more regulations or bigger actions, however as individuals we play a significant role by contributing to the status quo. So embrace and push through 2018 IWD #pressforprogress. You can start from yourself as the women suffrages did in 1900 which developed through ripple effect of individual’s courage to speak up starting with a thought, I am better than this, and then taking action by behaving like an equal in your own home, community, club and or workplace. There is a lot that you can do to contribute to be as positive changemaker on this is the legacy you will impart onto your sons and daughters and it commences with respect for self.

Starting with yourself, I would like to challenge you to have the courage to be YOU. Be proud to be who you are and accept that you are more than enough to be who you are now and you will not let others dictate who you should be and what you should do. Ask for help or help other women to empower them and expand their perspective that there is a possibility that equality can exist on our society beyond legislation. After all you are responsible to create your own experience in this life journey and you need to look after and love the most important person in the world that is YOURSELF. The only limitation that we have in life is us.