Fearless Girl Statue a Vital Symbol of Equality
By Claire Rogers
The Fearless Girl statue arrived in Melbourne in time for today’s International Women’s Day. The plucky little figure, hands on hips and facing an adversary, stands firm yet alone in the bustle of Federation Square.
News of her arrival understandably drew commentary. Her original was erected in New York City, her feet planted firm before Wall Street’s Charging Bull statue — a clear sign of her purpose to challenge the male domination of corporate America.
In the first year she faced down that bull, the number of companies in America with female-majority boards doubled. The letter-writing campaign that emerged from her presence helped prompt the shift.
Commentators here assert her place is more appropriate there on Wall Street — where there is context and purpose for her superhero stance. The bull was a ferocious threat. A clear danger. It made more sense to show her strength of spirit when she — and everyone around her — could see the villain.
“And anyway,” angry keyboards in Melbourne further thumped, “what about fearless boys?”
It’s right for Fearless Girl to be a fixture in Melbourne, without a fearless boy beside her. We must not ignore the challenges — in Australia and in the rest of the world — that are exclusive to women and girls.
She makes that point.
And it’s right that there is no charging bull standing before her in Federation Square. The mystery of what is threatening her is a sign that many men simply can’t see the mountain of obstacles she faces. Reduced standard of living, unpaid work overload, lower education prospects and depleted earning capacity — universal threats to a gender-equal world.
Women make up more than half of the population but from government to board rooms, we are woefully under-represented.
On days like these, talk always turns to the need for more women leaders. The truth is women are already leaders, doing it every day with purpose and effect. But it’s time women had equal chance to lead from the front.
We must equip girls with the knowledge and skills to fight all types of battles.
On this day last year, I was in Bangladesh where I met Meghla, an 18-year-old woman advocating against child marriage.
When she was 13, Meghla took World Vision life skills classes, learning how to communicate social rights and the adverse effects of early marriage.
Those lessons gave her confidence. She needed that confidence when her mother threatened to kill herself if Meghla didn’t marry at 13. Meghla held her ground and fought for her future; now, she works with us to prevent other child marriages.
She is a true hero, a fearless girl.
Meghla’s story is not unique. In many of the places we work, girls are seen as a burden and parents try to marry them off quickly. Yet simultaneously, we know women and girls are the glue holding together families and communities.
Through development projects such as child sponsorship and education programs, vulnerable children achieve their full potential.
We’ve come a long way, but there is much more to do. Early childhood marriage is one battlefront. Education is another. According to the World Bank, 132 million girls around the world between the ages of six and 17 are still not in school. Research shows the cost of not educating those girls reaches into the trillions of dollars.
And more than 500 women and adolescent girls die from pregnancy and childbirth complications in emergency settings. Every. Single. Day.
I faced birth difficulties when my son came into the world. Without the medical treatment we take for granted in Australia, my son and I would have died. Men and boys reap rewards from increased women’s health standards.
My personal experience has shown me that when it comes to gender equality, a rising tide lifts all boats. Yet, many women are rightly frustrated that change seems slow.
We need a new generation to speak up and share their stories. That’s why this month, World Vision Australia connected with 14-year-old slam poet, Solli Raphael, to raise awareness about child sponsorship and the plight of vulnerable women and children around the world.
Solli, the youngest winner of the Australian Poetry Slam at Sydney Opera House, represents the kind of inspirational leader this country needs more of. This generation gets it. Young people like Solli know the power of standing together more than any generation past. His poetry gives goosebumps:
“Well, I’m here to tell you that this future isn’t inevitable.
There’s power in standing up for the world’s most vulnerable,
We can help end violence now and make a child’s hope achievable.
But it takes a world to make it possible.”
Solli reminds us all that Fearless Girl doesn’t stand alone. Worldwide, hundreds of thousands of people have visited her. Mothers photograph their daughters linking arms with her.
Supporting and empowering girls and women, whether in Australia or overseas, advances us.
So, what about Fearless Boy?
Take your son to see Fearless Girl. Take a photo of him standing at her side. Explain the importance of International Women’s Day. Make him the fearless boy.
PICTURE: Fearless Girl's original was erected in New York City, standing before Wall Street’s Charging Bull statue
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