MEDIA RELEASE: Australia should be at the forefront of efforts to advance gender equality globally – Essential poll


Australia’s leading women’s development organisation, the International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA) is urging the Australian government to deepen its commitment to gender equality as part of its foreign policy, as a global gathering for gender equality gets underway in Paris this week.

The Generation Equality Forum, convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the governments of Mexico and France, will launch a series of concrete, ambitious and transformative actions to achieve immediate and irreversible progress towards gender equality worldwide.

These commitments include a call on governments around the world to adopt feminist foreign policies, and Australia should be at the forefront of these efforts. A recent Essential poll shows strong support for Australia to use its power to support the human rights of marginalised people around the world.

“Australia has made some significant inroads when it comes to supporting women’s rights organisations across the Pacific, but we want to see a significant levelling up of our commitments in the region – and globally – leading by example with an inclusive foreign policy,” IWDA chief executive Bettina Baldeschi said.

“The World Economic Forum predicts it will take 135 years to close the gender gap without rapid intervention. That’s nearly two lifetimes for the average adult.

“In a world where 49 countries have no laws to protect women from domestic violence, where women do nearly three times more unpaid care and domestic work than men, and where even in Australia women remain drastically underrepresented in all decision-making spaces – we need immediate and effective action.

“Countries like Canada, France, Spain and Mexico have all committed to feminist foreign policies or feminist international assistance policies and we’d like to see Australia rise to this too.

The Generation Equality Forum this week is an opportunity for us to stand on the global stage, alongside other nations and commit to advancing women’s and girl’s rights around the world,” Ms Baldeschi said.

A recent Essential Research omnibus poll found:

  • More than half of the Australians surveyed agree with the idea that Australia can lead by example through an inclusive foreign policy.
  • 56% of Australians agreed or strongly agreed that Australia has the responsibility to use its power to support the human rights of marginalised people, compared to just 14% who disagreed or strongly disagreed.
  • 50% of people surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that Australia has power on the global stage to lead other countries by example in its approach to an inclusive foreign policy, compared to 19% disagreed/strongly disagreed.
  • 50% of people surveyed agreed or strongly with the statement that Australia should be at the forefront of international efforts to advance gender equality globally, compared to 19% who disagreed/strongly disagreed.
An infographic with data results from a survey about Australia's foreign policy
Results from a recent Essential Research omnibus poll.

“These results show that not only would Australia’s adoption of a feminist foreign policy likely be well received by a large number of citizens, it would also bring the common goal of gender equality to all areas of our international engagements, ensuring that actions in one area don’t undermine progress in another,” Ms Baldeschi said.

IWDA launched its report this week From Seeds to Roots: Trajectories towards Feminist Foreign Policy which shows the feminist foreign policies in place to date have tended to come as a surprise to those working within government and civil society, highlighting the need for bold leadership.

“If the biggest question facing Australia in the global context is how to engage with China – announcing a feminist foreign policy would be a very bold way to differentiate ourselves and plant our stake firmly in the ground of values-driven policy based on equality, human rights and democracy,” Ms Baldeschi said.


About IWDA: IWDA is an Australian-based organisation, resourcing diverse women’s rights organisations primarily in Asia and the Pacific, and contributing to global feminist movements to advance our vision of gender equality for all.

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