Speech by Stephanie Ephraim Lekal.

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Last year, on Women’s Day, activists from many countries around the world made a Pledge for Parity. We promised to work towards equal opportunities, to help women achieve their goals, to challenge unconscious bias; to call for more female leaders and to value women’s work.

It’s great that so many people support these actions. But there is a problem.

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The Global Gender Gap report by the World Economic Forum released last year showed that if we keep advancing at the speed we are at now, we won’t reach gender parity in health, education, economy and politics until the year 2186.

None of us will still be alive then, and nor will our children, and nor will their children. This is too long to wait!

Even though so many of us are working on making a world which is more gender equal, we are not moving fast enough.

We need to be braver, louder, bolder and to challenge things with more strength and more often. For this reason, the theme for this years International Women’s Day is BE BOLD FOR CHANGE.

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To quietly challenge things, and to stay within our comfort zone will unfortunately not be enough to make a difference. We need to encourage our sisters and brothers to ask more questions, uncomfortable questions, sometimes to people in power. We need to be brave enough to point it out when someone says something that is sexist, or when something isn’t fair.

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We need to be brave enough to report and to challenge violence that we see or experience. We need to be brave enough to try studying things and learning about things we thought were only for men. We need to be brave enough to apply for positions of leadership even if other people will laugh at us. We need to be brave enough to stand up even when no-one else wants to support us.

When we do this, we chip away at the old structures which keeps things the way they are, we weaken it. But its too big to break down if we only tap it softly. We need to hit it hard, often, and all together. And we need to be ready to rebuild it the way we want it.

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Here in Vanuatu, I think the hardest thing to change is not the formal parts like laws and access. I think the hardest part is changing the way people think. And that’s where yumi evriwan I mas wok togeta blo challengem ol olfala idea abaot capability blo woman, and abaot rol blo woman insaed lo hom and insaed lo wokfos.

I hope that we can all come together, and get ready to Be Bold for Change today and every day so that we can see gender parity in our lifetime.

Thank you.

#BeBoldForChange #InternationalWomensDay


Photo credit: Lava Photography