International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day was celebrated in earnest at the Wedderburn Community House recently.

More than 30 people gathered to view cultural displays from Spain, India, the United Arab Emirates and Papua New Guinea, before settling in for a hearty lunch that featured Italian, French, German, Chinese and Greek food. The frequency with which people returned to the food table was proof enough that the fare was thoroughly enjoyed. As people ate they were entertained with classical guitar and Flamenco, provided by retired music teacher and Wedderburn local, Bill Foreman. Mr Foreman spent 18 months in Spain in the early 1970s studying Flamenco, a form of Spanish folk music. He played on an authentic Flamenco guitar that be purchased in Spain dining his stay, while he also played mouth organ for The Gypsy Girl – a song he wrote about his daughter – and Waltzing Matilda, for which everyone joined in with gusto.

International trivia was another popular event, throwing up some interesting facts about women, including:   On average, women speak 7000 more words per day than men and women eat two to three kilograms of lipstick on average in their lifetime.

Following the trivia the audience heard from three guest speakers who live locally but have spent time abroad.

First up was Stephen Colbert, who spent 22 years working in the Pacific Islands and married a Papua New Guinean woman. He spoke on the gender divide in PNG, which he said was particularly evident in rural village communities. “All women were not created equal,” he said. “Traditional society dictates that women will be subservient and they will do what they’re told .” Mr Colbert said that society was changing, but it wouldn’t “change overnight”. “The third world, particularly in the Pacific Islands, has got a long way to go  but they’re realising the potential of women,” he said. “The key to change is education and wealth generation.”

Next up was Caroline McHugh, who, in 2011, took a teaching position at a school in Sharjah, the third-largest city in the United Arab Emirates. “I absolutely loved the whole experience,” she said. “It’s fascinating having the experience of living in a country as opposed to being a tourist. “Family is all and every man has a responsibility to look after his family. “To be honest, the children are just beautiful; they love life and they know a lot about the world.”

To conclude the day, the audience heard from Padma Kashyap, who moved to Australia from India nine years ago and now teaches at Wedderburn College. Like the other speakers, Mrs Kashyap spoke about the limited role women play in Indian society. “It’s a male-dominated society, even today,”  she said. “Women are always controlled by men, first by their father, then their husband, and in old age by their son.”  Mrs Kashyap said one thing that shocked her when she arrived in Australia was that while in India people were expected to care for their parents in old age, the elderly in Australia looked after themselves to a much greater extent. Mrs Kashyap also spoke about sexual violence in India and bans on doctors revealing the gender of unborn babies to avoid girls being aborted. “There are fantastic things happening in India but also terrible things happening at the same time,” she said. “Education is the only factor that can make change, I feel.” Ms Kashyap was full of praise for the generosity and community spirit she had witnessed in Wedderburn. ‘”l‘he first thing that struck me about Wedderburn was the community spirit; I have never seen anything like it in India,” she said. Ms Kashyap ended with a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, America’s longest serving First Lady and an esteemed civil and women’s rights activist. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” she said.

With thanks to The Loddon Times. 26/03/14. for the article.

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