We, as young women aged 14 to 30 of Australia and the Pacific, have been participating in Women Taking Action Locally and Globally held at the University of New South Wales on 17-19 June 2004. This has been a part of a process comprised of networking, meetings, caravans, the Human Rights Court and workshops. The process will continue in our local communities, organisations, state and federal government and at the regional NGO forum in Bangkok.
‘We believe that young people are the agents of change’
(Cairo Youth Declaration, 1994)
The belief that we, as young women, are agents and catalysts of change has strengthened our commitment to the realisation of young women’s human rights.
We recognise that the experience of female youth is unique to and should be distinguished from that of the girl child and woman.
We recognise that young women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, those with disabilities, young women from indigenous communities, lesbians, young women from different religious backgrounds, and those living in poverty experience compound injustices.
During these workshops we have recognised these as issues of importance and concern. These are our recommendations for action:
Education, the Girl-Child and Health:
• All educational environments should actively promote a culture free of gender and cultural stereotyping.
• All students in primary and secondary schools should attend courses that focus on personal safety, healthy relationships, sexual, emotional and physical violence as well as gender and cultural stereotyping.
• A curriculum advisory committee comprised of young women and men should be established to work with and provide direct feedback to the Department of Education.
• Programs that support pregnant students and mothers to complete secondary school and learn parenting skills should be promoted.
• The social and economic cost of the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) is devastating for students in higher education, the affects on women more than men. The HECS system should be abolished. Federal and state governments should pay the financial cost of higher education.
• The age of consent should be maintained to respect the autonomy and privacy of youth over their own medical records and other documents.
• Young women ought to obtain their own Medicare cards from the age of 12 in order to access physical and mental health services on their own accord.
• The process of obtaining a Medicare card should be accessible to all young women. Forms should be available at schools and community organisations and information required on the forms should be related only to the individual.
• Development and promotion of further services that provide anonymous counselling and support services to young women.
Conflict, Violence against Women and Human Rights:
• Young women are vulnerable members in both the public and private spheres of our society.
• Communities and governments must uphold severe consequences for perpetrators of emotional, physical or sexual abuse against any woman, especially on the basis of different cultural or religious background, indigenous background, disability or sexual diversity.
• The practice of mandatory detention limits the educational opportunities of young women and places their physical and mental health of young women at risk. No person who seeks asylum in Australia should be placed in a detention centres.
• Youth holding Temporary Protection Visas (TPV) should be charged the same higher education fees as Australian citizens or residents. The much higher fees, equivalent to international students, that they currently pay greatly restricts the ability for TPV holders, especially young women, to attend higher education in Australia.
Poverty, the Economy, Decision Making and the Media:
• Media conglomerates and advertising agencies must reprise the presentation of young women on television, in magazines, in advertising and in movies as deceptive, self-absorbed, shallow sexual objects.
• We call for a diverse and genuine portrayal of young women in the media.
• Promote opportunities for young women to meaningfully participate in decision-making processes in community organisations, local, state and federal governments.
• All young women should have the opportunity to participate in leadership training that emphasizes communication and self-concept.
• We appeal for a political and social movement towards peace in our local communities and in the international community.