Note: The following is a transcript of Marina's opening remarks for Balmoral Hall School's 2019 International Women's Day Assembly, coordinated by the students of Girls for the World.
Why is it that there have been so many male Prime Ministers, but only one woman?
Why is it that girls just as hardworking and intelligent as we, are not getting equal opportunities?
Why is it that women of colour are often excluded from the conversation?
Why is it that transgender women are also excluded from the conversation?
Why is it that so many people are hesitant to identify as feminist?
Why is it that strong-minded women expressing themselves are "unlikable" or "bossy"?
The answers are not so clear cut, neither are the solutions. However, these types of questions, the hardest ones to answer, are the questions that have motivated changemakers for centuries. Hard questions were asked in the late 19th and early 20th century when the suffragette women fought for equal voting rights. Hard questions were asked in the 1950s when Margaret Sanger and her supporters fought for women's rights over their bodies and the right to birth control. Hard questions were asked in 2016 when women, including many of us, took to the streets in cities around the world to fight for equal rights, justice, and political representation and continued to do that every year since.
With each hard question, a group of passionate, determined, radical, inspiring individuals of all genders and identities have worked to respond with purposeful action.
I am proud to stand before you on this significant day to celebrate these individuals and to remind ourselves of how far we, as women and girls, have come. If you still don't know why you are here, today, March 8, is International Women's Day.
International Women's Day started in 1911, and every year since then, women, men, and non-binary people have unified in celebration to honour the achievements of the incredible women of the past and present. Those who have led social, cultural, economic, and political change. Every year, this celebration grows stronger, larger, and most importantly, louder.
Most of us in this room identify as a woman or girl, and many of us know how it feels to be overlooked or underestimated just because of our gender. But, International Women's Day reminds us that even through adversity, as women, we will not be held back, we will take up space, and there is power in our voices. When women and girls see their value as leaders and make themselves heard, it encourages others to do the same. And that is the beauty and purpose of what we are here to do; support and encourage one another to defy the odds and live a life larger than oneself. Emulating the brave women who came before us.
This International Women's Day, we celebrate women through song, dance, and drama. Performances that we will see today combines the creative power of art move with the influential activism that sparks necessary change within ourselves and our community.
Since International Women's Day was first celebrated, the progress we have made is monumental. Women now make up the majority of university graduates, nearly half of the workforce is comprised of women, and women make up 50% of the federal cabinet. We are leading businesses, we are creating art, we are making scientific discoveries, we are thriving in all areas of society. As new opportunities become open for women, and as women create opportunities of their own, the more the world can witness the power of the girl.
But we must keep in mind that the freedoms and opportunities we have now, and sometimes take for granted, are not universal. Not one country has reached true gender equality, and globally women and girls remain to be society's most vulnerable. Amid the celebration, International Women's Day is a reminder of the road still ahead of us. So, I urge you, keep asking hard questions, and keep demanding answers.