Reflections on International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day Image: iStock

For International Women’s Day, PhD candidates working with the Australian Human Rights Institute in the gender justice area offered their reflections on this year’s event, and what is emerging in their own research.


Kavitha Suthanthiraraj

This year’s International Women’s Day will provide a unique opportunity to capitalise on the transformative global movement spurred by #metoo and #timesup.

It will also provide an opportunity to talk to those outside the feminist movement and inspire them to join in the discussion.

My research indicates that inspired actors and cross-institutional knowledge sharing are enabling gender mainstreaming to occur in some areas, with greater women’s participation, acknowledgement of the violence perpetrated against women and girls and more women in positions of influence.

Yet, the research also indicates that gender transformation is still a long way off, with structural inequalities being difficult to shift.

I recently participated in a workshop in Papua New Guinea, where these structural barriers across governments and within communities emerged as critical obstructions towards progressing women’s rights. 

For me, the most critical element that needs attention isn’t as much on specific women’s rights issues - as that list could be endless - but how the global conversation can be transformed into action for those women in countries who aren’t able to speak out.

That is, how can we work across institutions, collaborate with unlikely partners and engage with influential male and female champions to bring about this much-needed change. 


Sophie Yates

Violence against women remains one of the biggest women's rights issues in the world today.

My own research focuses on the way we think about and talk about the policy problem of domestic and family violence (DFV) in Australia by examining how it was framed by actors in Victoria's 2015-16 Royal Commission into Family Violence. 

My findings indicate that even when experts at the Commission in Victoria use the gender-neutral term “family violence”, they are usually keeping a gendered analysis of the problem in mind.

I argue that as well as thinking about gender as category, we need to think more deeply about how gender as process – at individual, interactional, and structural/institutional levels – distributes power between different groups of people in society and underpins violence in the family (particularly violence against women).

Really getting to grips with these ideas will involve some fairly radical transformations in the way we live, raise children and perform gender, but the current gender structure clearly needs to change in order to improve DFV outcomes and women’s rights more generally.


Lenka Olejníková

Research shows that gender relations are key for our understanding of violence on an international, national, organisational, as well as a personal level. 

Gender equality has been found to be the most important indicator of the overall peacefulness of a country, internally as well as externally. It is more important than democracy, GDP, and the ethnicity or faith of its people

Countries with a higher degree of gender equality opt for less violent international conflict resolution and are less likely to experience civil war.

Also, political organisations with gender-inclusive ideology are more likely to use nonviolent tactics to achieve their ends.

On an individual level, gender equality norms have been found to have pacifying effects. Studies have shown that the adherence to gender equality norms generates peaceful attitudes and behaviour in men and women alike.

People who have a positive attitude to gender equality are more likely to desire peaceful resolution of international conflict and are less likely to perceive other countries and minorities in their own country as enemies.

Striving for gender equality thus means striving for a more peaceful world.