Natalie Cromb: Women are dying and we need to do more

In #IWD2018, BlogX, Justice, Politics by Luke Pearson

Author: Natalie Cromb

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NATALIE CROMB IS A GAMILARAAY WOMAN FROM BURRA BEE DEE ABORIGINAL RESERVE OUTSIDE COONABARABRAN IN WARRUMBUNGLE COUNTRY. CROMB HAS STRONG FAMILY INFLUENCE ON HER WRITING AND ACTIVISM WITH HER GRANDFATHER TEACHING HER BLACK POLITICS AROUND THE DINNER TABLE AND AS A DESCENDENT OF MARY JANE CAIN.

There is much to celebrate this International Women’s Day. Women are glorious and brave and without a doubt shedding the shackles of silence.

The recent #metoo campaign has reignited the conversation about sexual harassment and assault in the workplace and the solidarity has been both inspiring and empowering. We have seen the high profile example of Lisa Wilkinson taking action to stand up for equal pay in the workplace and yes, she has a considerable amount of financial privilege in which to be in a position to do this, but her resolve is something that should be celebrated nonetheless. The petulant response from her former boss is demonstrative of the way in which some men fail to see their privilege and attempt to reinforce their power through denigration of women. This is not unique and the more it is called out by men and women, the more people will understand the practical application of privilege.

The women who have written International Women’s Day pieces for IndigenousX are powerful and rousing, and in fact, the women who have lent their voice to this day more broadly – today and every day – inspire me and make me feel part of a community. A sisterhood. Particularly when I am among black women – my sisters, cousins, aunties and nans – they better me. They steel me and harden my resolve to continue the fight to smash the patriarchal system of power and control. As a black woman, however, whilst the fight for equal pay and freedom from gendered discrimination is a critical matter to address – this is not the most urgent in my mind.

Women are dying

Women are dying. On average – one a week at the hands of a current or former domestic partner. One in three women have experienced sexual violence and one in five women have experienced domestic violence.

When I think about the statistics that affect women, particularly Indigenous women, in this country – it is equal parts enraging and devastating. Our women are dying and this is and should be alarming.

This is a crisis and should be treated as such. The assistance available for women is dwindling with funding cuts despite having politicians standing on the lawn for photo opportunities wearing their white ribbons.

The white ribbon photo opportunities reek of hypocrisy as they stand there pretending they stand for something then walk into parliament and allow funding cuts to life saving services that provide emergency accommodation and care for women who are seeking to escape danger that lies within their homes – often helpless, without support or resources and frequently with children.

Women are dying and we are taking photographs and funding awareness campaigns. Women are dying and we know the cause. Women are dying and we know the solution, but still it continues. We are ‘raising awareness’ and telling women to get out, but cutting resources to the places they can get out to.

We are not understanding or addressing the complex factors that affect women in different geographical locations, in different family constructs and different racial and religious homes.

The issues affecting women are vast and complex.

Symbolism over substance

A woman in a small country town with one shelter or one family lawyer is going to be extremely disadvantaged and at significant risk and despite ‘awareness’ there are still feeling of shame associated with these family matters.

Women are not and never are ‘at fault’ in matters where they are victimised by a spouse or a stranger but the treatment by society in its actions – symbolism over substance – is very telling to the woman sitting at home with ice on her face wondering what she is going to do.

A woman grappling with the decision to stay or leave should never ever have to make this decision on the basis of having nowhere to go with no help – this is a crisis and until it is treated as such by the men who are so keen to wear ribbons – we will continue to scream that WOMEN ARE DYING.

How can women continue to be commoditised despite all of the work being done by women to raise awareness, to highlight what is and is not okay, to demonstrate ways in which we can interact without there being misogyny and gendered subjugation?

Because men aren’t doing the work.

Because men continue to hold onto their power and privilege and because men continue to hurt and kill women. We cannot wait for men to change and address their behaviour.

We need to support women and fight for more funding to essential lifesaving support services for women no matter how remote their locations – screw economies of scale – this is life and death and no amount of white ribbons can comfort a grieving family.

Women are dying and men in suits who walk into parliament are not doing enough. Let’s make them!

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