Two speakers who have attended major women’s rights meetings at the United Nations addressed a reception following a service held at the Baha’i Temple in Sydney on 24 March to mark International Women’s Day.
Among those attending the service and reception were the Consul-General for India, Arun Goel; Ms Lucy Wicks, representing the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott MP; Councillor Kay Millar, representing the Mayor of Pittwater, Cr Jacqueline Townsend; and Cr Vanessa Moskal of Warringah Council.
Keynote speaker Sue Conde AM, co-chair of the Sydney chapter of the Australian National Committee for UN Women, said International Women’s Day is the day to celebrate the achievements and address the challenges of women and girls worldwide.
“I commend the Baha’i community for the many ways you work to affirm the equality of men and women, and for all you are doing to build a better world,” said Ms Conde, who has participated in the UN General Assembly special session on women and the Commission on the Status of Women in New York.
Ms Conde said the National Committee for UN Women Australia devoted its International Women’s Day fundraising this year to supporting critical services for women escaping violence in Papua New Guinea.
Ms Conde quoted from Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women, who said: “It is time for Governments to keep their promises and protect human rights in line with the international conventions and agreements that they signed on to.”
Baha’is as a Bridge
The second keynote speaker was Isadora Quay, who represented the Australian Baha’i Community at the Commission on the Status of Women at the UN held from 4-15 March 2013.
“At the international level there are some fearsome debates about equality and women’s rights,” said Ms Quay, currently an Advisor (Gender in Emergencies) for CARE Australia.
“As a religion that believes fundamentally in equality and the advancement of women, Baha’is internationally and in Australia can form a bridge between different groups and provide a space where people with diverse perspectives can come together,” Ms Quay said.
“Violence against women is not an outside issue,” she said.
“One in three women in Australia is affected by violence, and it can happen in any home
“We need to take this issue seriously and act on it
“In addition to strong legal structures and support services, this will take the spiritual realisation that violence is not the answer.”
After the keynote addresses there was a lively discussion which covered the role of men in achieving equality; the importance of the education of children; the importance of modelling by parents and in families; and how the UN responds to countries where women’s rights are violated.
The MC for the event, Venus Khalessi, said that the equality of women and men has always been a fundamental principle of the Baha’i Faith.
“We strive to work with others in establishing this reality”, Ms Khalessi said.
The service in the Temple included readings from the sacred scriptures of the major religions of the world and a recital by the Baha’i Temple choir.
International Women’s Day is observed internationally on 8 March but this event at the Baha’i Temple was held on 24 March so as not to occur during the Baha’i fast (2-20 March).