Ayebatonye Abrakasa, Co-Founder Of The Women’s March on Sydney, Discusses Why She Fights For Women’s Rights

by: Courtney Sanders | 4 years ago | Features

Ayebatonye Abrakasa, Co-Founder Of The Women’s March on Sydney.

The election of Donald Trump in the US, a man who proudly admits to grabbing women by the pussy and who did all kinds of inappropriate things while he owned Miss Universe, has made the fight for women’s rights, worldwide, seem more urgent, and more important, than ever.

While the current political predicament of the US will probably have global repurcussions, when it comes to women’s rights, we here in Australia have our own problems to worry about, too: we have apallingly high rate of domestic violence, the treatment of women who are members of minority groups has been, and continues to be, abhorrent – and that’s just for starters.

The US election, then, provided the catalyst for us to assess the state of gender equality here and abroad, and to get motivated to do something about it. The Women’s March on Sydney was a key part of this: bringing people who believe in the same diverse set of rights together in one place. United we stand. Ayebatonye Abrakasa is a musician and writer, and one of the wonderful women who organised the Women’s March on Sydney, so, in celebration of our Gender Equal Tote Bag project, and of International Women's Day coming up on March 8th, we asked her why she fights for women’s rights.

An image from the Women's March in Sydney taken by Jessica Mincher for Catalogue

Courtney Sanders: Why is gender equality important to you?
Ayebatonye Abrakasa: Gender equality is important to me because I believe that, regardless of your sexual orientation, everyone should be treated as equals. Systemic gender inequality perpetuates the existing and antiquated stereotypes of women and can result in violence against women, and has an adverse affects on the mental health of those who are subjected to it. Gender disparity is truly detrimental and affects all of us, and it hurts my heart that we are still fighting for this shit.

Courtney: What do you think we can do to make the fashion industry more gender equal?
Ayebatonye: We need to make fashion more gender equal  by supporting women working in the industry by supporting their businesses; by making sure those who are working [in the fashion industry] are being paid fair wages; and by ensuring that designs are truly being made for women and not the dominant male gaze. Choosing quality over quantity when making clothing purchase decisions will not only help ensure that you're not supporting sweatshops, but also will help with environmental sustainability.

Courtney: What are your biggest concerns, more broadly, with regards to gender inequality right now?
Ayebatonye: Gender inequality is and always has been a huge concern as it has a direct impact on our quality of life: our health, economic stability, and our safety are all affected by disparities in gender.In Australia, we have one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the western world, we have women who are sexually assaulted and then experience victim-blaming when they report their assault. The systemic discrimination faced [by women] in the workplace means that men generally hold higher positions of power within the workforce, and the men holding these positions of power tend to hire other men to work with them. Women are also paid a fraction of what men make. Within the workforce, women make up a mere 15.4% of all CEO positions within Australia. To make matters worse, of that 15.4%, women of colour, trans women and differently-abled women are grossly underrepresented. There is a lot of research that shows that women in leadership positions encourages other women. We need to create more opportunities by supporting our fellow women in business, by voting more women into parliament, by mentoring one another and working to ensure that all who identify as female are highly visible within the workforce to inspire our future generations.

To celebrate our Gender Equal Tote Bag project, and in the lead-up to International Women's Day, we're hosting an event as part of VAMFF 2017, A Good Evening: How Fashion Can Empower Women. It will be a wonderful night of good cocktails, canapes, and conversation with the Australian fashion industry's more renowned thinkers, so why don't you join us – tickets are available here!

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