Winner 2016: Mandy Mills, NSW
Name: Mandy Mills
Community, State: Forster, NSW
School: Great Lakes College Senior Campus
Age: 17, Grade: 12
Bio: Click here
Why is gender equality important to you and your community?
Gender equality is vital to me as I believe that an individual’s worth depends upon more than the anatomy that they were born with and I will not accept that I am restricted from opportunities purely because of my gender assignment.
The dichotomy between men and women within my community, an area with a population of roughly 35 thousand people, maintains the exhausted conventions of male endorsement. As Wangari Maathai, a pioneer of feminism throughout Africa, emphasises, “the higher you go, the fewer women there are”. This observation is clear within the construction of my school, Great Lakes College, a microcosm of the town, where the top three tiers of the hierarchy are dominated by men.
As a spectator of gender bias I believe that the importance of gender, and subsequently, gender roles, should be re-evaluated, making the judgement of an individual’s competency based on their personal ability and not on the long-held tradition of patriarchal superiority. It would be naïve to disregard the fact that a person’s genetic make-up supports certain occupations, though it does not have the power to dictate competency or salaries. Thus, gender bias should be subverted in the workplace and competency based on skill not anatomy.
Throughout Australia and the world, a culture of domestic violence has also been forged. The oppression inflicted upon women by their partners is evidently an example of where the gender divide has gone too far. My words are not meant to be prejudicial towards men, they aim to emphasise the fact that women are at least three times more likely than men to experience violence. Statistically, Forster is placed in the top eight towns in the state for the highest rates of domestic violence, and we have also been identified as having some of the most inadequate services available. This is something that my school wishes to change. With numerous fundraising efforts we have raised over five hundred dollars for the local women’s shelter.
On a more individual level, equality between both genders is incredibly important to me. Being influenced by women such as Wangari Maathai has ignited a fire within me to fight for basic equality. I acknowledge that so much progress has been made through the hardship of the suffragettes and that a single voice alone cannot silence centuries of tradition. Though if we all stand together, united, maybe our whispers can turn into a roar.