Madam Chair, right across the world, every woman and girl should be free to exercise her freedoms, her choices, and realise her rights. This includes her right to live free from violence, her right to control her own body, to go to school, to participate fully and freely in political processes and to earn equal pay for equal work.
As Governments, we must respond to the needs of all women, especially rural women in all their diversity, including indigenous women, migrant women, women with disabilities and LGBTI women.
In Australia, rural communities are fundamental to our economic and social stability, providing much of the food we eat, the energy that runs our households, and our industries.
One in three Australian women reside in rural areas. The contribution of these women to the ongoing growth and sustainability of our society is crucial. Rural women are our teachers, doctors, nurses, officials and our Parliamentarians. They run successful businesses and farms, and are at the forefront of innovation and research.
Women also play a leading role in building and maintaining the resilience of their communities, particularly those communities that experience greater vulnerability to disasters and shocks.
Our policies and institutional responses are designed to take into account the intersecting experiences and needs of rural women in all their diversity.
Despite the positive role rural women and girls play in Australia, we also recognise that they face a range of different challenges and disadvantages compared to their urban counterparts. And for many women and girls, a life in a rural community can be marred by multiple and competing forms of disadvantage and discrimination.
Rural women and girls continue to receive unequal opportunities to men and have unequal access to economic resources. Women maintain the burden of caring responsibilities, thereby inhibiting their ability to exercise choice. Productive land passes primarily to men, despite the reality that the majority of agricultural producers are women.
Chair, our responses also recognise that technology will play a central role in driving greater equality and empowerment for rural women and girls. Access to technology is crucial for women and girls, especially those in rural areas. Technology is increasingly relied upon to support the delivery of essential services to rural communities, like health, schooling and justice services. It is essential to the economic independence of women, and as an avenue to communicate with support services, family and friends.
It is also essential, Madam Chair, that the increase in access to technology does not permit an increase in technological abuse. Unfortunately, in many cases, women experience abuse and violence when technology is used to harass, control and stalk.
Australia has responded to this threat by creating the Office of the eSafety Commissioner which provides valuable resources to women and girls to manage their online engagement and provide support in dealing with online harassment and abuse through initiatives such as the image-based abuse portal.
Chair, I am proud of the commitment Australia has shown to enrich and empower the lives of women and girls across the region and around the world.
Australia is committed to the full realisation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and to ensuring that the 2030 Agenda implements a gender mainstreaming approach across all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
As a member of the Human Rights Council and candidate for membership to the Commission, Australia commits to magnifying the call for global equality and justice, working in collaboration with our national human rights institutions and civil society organisations, including rural human rights defenders.
These institutions are integral in raising and representing the voices of women and girls the world over. Our work is dependent upon their undying passion and support.
I am proud that Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner and – for the first time – Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner – have joined me at CSW62 this year, along with two representatives of civil society on the Australian Government’s delegation, along with our Ambassador for Women and Girls.
Madame Chair, Australia sees a bright and hopeful future for women and girls of all backgrounds. In collaboration with our global and domestic partners, we will continue to lobby with unwavering for the rights of all women and their freedom to choose, including rural women and girls.