Alison Cui

International Women’s Day speech by Alison Cui, at Unions NSW lunch in Parramatta.

Being able to speak today is a full circle moment.

International Women’s Day left a big impression on me when I was 16.

With my high school, I attended the 2007 Amnesty International Womens Day Breakfast.

I felt at the time it was so fantastic to have a day dedicated just to issues for women and girls.

Now as a Unions NSW intern I play a part in organising events for International Women’s Day.

So I’ve been reflecting on why this is such an important day; why young women in particular need International Women’s Day, and why we’re all here today.

Firstly because our communities are still not safe for women. Clare who’s an intern with Unions NSW was telling us just last week that she doesn’t feel safe travelling on public transport at night so misses out on having fun with friends.

Whether it’s a perception or reality, young women have a right to walk the streets and feel safe.

I have another friend who felt she had no choice but to leave her much needed part time job recently. Even though she told the restaurant owners that the manager was sexually harassing her – they did nothing.

Women have a right to a safe, harassment-free workplace.

I too will no doubt experience direct discrimination when I graduate from Macquarie University in law this year – it’s not a level playing field.

Women graduates in their first year of employment earn thousands of dollars less than our male counterparts… for example my friend Sarah who’s looking for work in the finance sector is facing a pay equity gap of over 30%. We can do better than that!

Hearing so many stories of young women experiencing discrimination, under-payments, unfair work practices has prompted me to do two things.

This semester I’ll be studying labour law as I hope to gain some knowledge to be able to help others.

The other is to continue volunteering my spare time with Unions NSW.

Now the gentleman in the suit Mark Lennon is not just a friendly guy.

Mark is the leader of the union movement in NSW with 600,000 members across 60 different unions.

Mark has also supported a large group of interns, many who are here today to have a voice inside the organisation.

We’re given access to training courses, such as industrial relations and health and safety. We attend Women’s Committee meetings, conferences and participate in many campaign and organising forums.

Recently we were able to take on a major project of holding union information stalls during O-Week at the University of Western Sydney and at Sydney Uni.

We were trusted to create materials to communicate work rights to young people in multiple languages, using all the bi-lingual skills of our interns, who come from Taiwan, China, Korea and India. It’s hard to know your rights when English isn’t your first language, let alone ask your employer to respect your rights.

On a personal level as a young woman I have a voice in the union movement. I feel valued.

On a global level, I’ve come to realize that it is only though solidarity, by joining unions and using our collective strength, that we can improve the working lives of all women.

So as we mark International Women’s Day can I encourage you, if you’re not already a member, to join your union.

And let’s all do our bit to make life fairer for everyone, especially our sisters.

Alison Rahill, Unions NSW Community Organiser mobile 0414 316 839 twitter @RahillAlison

Tagged: Women  /   Parramatta  /   International Women's Day  /   Unions  /   Young Women

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