Would Australia be more peaceful if there were a higher number of young women in the Federal Parliament?
It’s a question many have asked before. Now, 31 young girls and women from across Australia will have a taste for a gender-equal government when they take over the seats of various Australian Federal politicians on Nov. 28 during the annual Girls Take Over Parliament Event.
The international bipartisan program pairs young women and girls with politicians to ensure their voices are heard and policy ideas encouraged. This year, the girls and young women — each betwen the ages of 11 and 25 years old — will swap seats with the National’s Whip Damian Drum, Senator Richard di Natale, Labor MP Terri Butler, and former Deputy Prime Minister Julie Bishop, among others.
"In Australia, women hold less than a third of all seats in parliament and less than a quarter of ministerial portfolios," Girls Take Over Parliament co-founder and Obama White House Global Changemaker for Gender Caitlin Figueiredo stated in a media release. "We want young girls and women from all backgrounds to look at our political system and see themselves represented. Young girls and women need to know they are capable and are supported to follow their dreams."
This year's theme will see the young women and girls highlight image-based bullying, in which intimate or sexual photos are shared online without consent.
"Image-based bullying is on the rise in Australia," Figueiredo revealed. "There needs to be more investment in school and community-based programs which promote serious, truthful, straightforward, and thoughtful conversations around sexuality in a digital world."
A 2017 report from Plan International, which organised the takeover, showed that 98% of surveyed girls said boys and girls receive unequal treatment while 93% of 15- to 17-year-old girls believed it would be easier to get ahead in life if they weren't judged on their appearance.
The report furthermore revealed that the percentage of girls who view themselves as confident decreases from 56% at aged 10 to 44% at age 17. Overall, 40% said gender was the single most significant barrier to their chances of becoming a leader.
"Like girls everywhere, Australian girls are confident, and they aspire to succeed in their careers and personal lives, but that ambition fades as they get older. This is what we call the dream gap," Plan International CEO Susanne Legena stated. "Girls want to succeed, but they face barriers that grow more profound as they enter adulthood. They feel scrutinised for their appearance and a huge amount of pressure to be ‘perfect’."
Thus far, 120 girls have seized 40 parliaments in eight countries with 32 grassroots commitments achieved.