Top 15: Ella Graham

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Analyse gender equality in your community. Should more be done to empower women?

Author: Ella Graham

Community: Melrose, SA

Age: 16

Licked Before We Have Begun

I live in a rural town where sport is everything. Every Saturday people wake up at ridiculous hours of the often freezing morning to stand around the oval with hands clasped around steaming mugs of coffee, catching up on the seemingly everlasting string of gossip. This is the way I have always remembered it.

However, as I have lost my childhood innocence, it has occurred to me that the sport my community loves, and the club they pride themselves in, does not judge players on their ability to mark a footy or intercept a netball, but on gender.

In my club a 13-year-old boy can boundary umpire a match and get paid. Yet, when a girl or her parent is required to perform the same task, umpiring a netball match, she will receive no monetary reward. In fact, she is penalised if she does not fulfil the task.

“I wanted you to see what real courage is. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway.” – Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Girls here are licked before they’ve begun, but when they are subliminally denied thoughts about gender equality, they do not get the choice of even starting the journey. What is it saying to a young girl whose mother spends all day in the canteen so that the money raised can go towards paying her Dad, the repeatedly praised and ever so brave A Grade footy coach or player? Or to a boy who watches his sister miss her game because her single Mum had to work on the day? What’s more, some women seem willing to accept the inequality between football and netball, they’ve even gone so far as to defend it! It’s disheartening to watch strong, intelligent women, hide their brains and accept that their daughter’s lives don’t have equal value to their sons.

The pressure most girls feel is alien to me. I fortunately have a strong-willed, intelligent (and also extremely stubborn) single mum, who has been my moral constant, guiding me through life, ensuring I hold on tight to my self-respect and humanity. She has built a nest of similar people around me; strong and brave women. A police officer who excels at her job, and manages with ease to juggle her two mischievous boys, her battle with illness, and life on the farm. An Italian woman with more fire and heart than anything I could imagine. A divorced mum of two who has kept her humour and sense of fun, despite everything.

More should be done to empower women and young girls in my community, and the place we need to start is in our sporting community.