Each year International Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8th, a worldwide event acknowledging women's achievement on a global scale. The associated series of events provides an opportunity to reflect on the progress made thus far and recognise the generation that will continue advancing the agenda for gender equality now and in the future.
This year, the campaign slogan "Choose to Challenge" [i] acknowledges the spirit of the current generation of young people in our schools, referred to as Gen Z and Gen Alpha, for those born in 2010 and beyond. Growing up in a complex and often volatile global environment (we need to look no further than 2020 to see this), Gen Z and Gen Alpha are quite unlike any other. Whilst Millennials are often referred to as the "Me Generation" with a focus on the self, these generations are anchored collectively by their inherent search for truth – the "True Gen" [ii]
This nuance can be observed in their day-to-day behaviour, willing to mobilise for causes and their desire to avoid narrow labels. They demonstrate genuine, ethical concerns and believe in the efficacy of dialogue to improve the condition of the world in which they live. Causes championed on a global stage by notable female figures such as Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg have garnered much attention and deservedly so; however, it is not merely the celebrated few who will make an impact in our journey towards sustainable equality.
At The Knox School, we are proud to be a part of an environment that recognises, celebrates and supports equality across all aspects of our community. Underpinned by an ethos of Collective Individualism, we recognise that we are all part of a collective whole: students, staff, parents and the broader TKS landscape. Championing the individualism of each member of our community, we unify under our shared School Values and collaborate to make an impact on the world around us.
The IWD 2021 campaign purports that "a challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change" At TKS, we strive to enable our students to not only survive but to thrive within the world in which they will find themselves. To achieve this, we recognise that it is our responsibility to safeguard equal access to all opportunity and to role model positive behaviours. We endeavour to personalise the experience for each student, ensuring they feel a sense of value and personal belonging. We avoid stereotypes, and we uphold inclusivity.
We see this in action every day as our students take on new challenges, embracing diverse opportunities with endless possibilities. In removing all barriers to what can be achieved, we generate the potential for our students to grow unharnessed by stereotypes or gender bias. Through our range of courses and co-curricular programs, we provide a secure framework for them to develop as individuals and a safe platform for their voice to be heard.
We understand the significance of alignment between rhetoric and reality; in other words, we don't just talk the talk; we also walk the walk! Embracing the spirit of #ChooseToChallenge this International Women's Day, we will host a series of events, kicking off with a student assembly where we will host guest speaker Eliza McNamara, a midfielder for the Melbourne Footy Club playing the AFLW. In her first season at the Dees, Eliza has already found her form being described as "ferocious as they come, and she won't back down!" Eliza is a wonderful example of an individual who refuses to be defined by stereotypes and one who always chooses to challenge (where appropriate) on or off the field! Eliza will share her journey with our students and take part in a Q&A session hosted by our student leaders.
Throughout the week, staff and Students at The Knox School will strike the Choose To Challenge pose, raise our hand's high to show we are in, celebrating the collective strength of our TKS community. Be sure to look out for the images which will be on display on the screens around the TKS campus and through our social media channels using the hashtags: #ChooseToChallenge, #iwd2021 and #findyourniche.
As we celebrate IWD 2021 through the series of events at The Knox School, I encourage you to reflect on not only the array of strong and influential women in your life but also on the importance of equality within our community and how privileged we are to experience that day to day.
As a community, we can support our students to not accept gender as a pre-written book, but to empower them to challenge the stereotypes and write their own chapters; to let them see that their actions are their pen and that they too can create, rather than be defined, by history! At TKS, we will continue to support and enable our current generation of students to discover their individual voice and empower their sense of collective agency to ensure they can be the generation to generate the change the world so badly needs.
At The Knox School, we are proud to be an organisation that supports the IWD2021 "Choose To Challenge" campaign. As a co-educational school from ELC-VCE, we believe The Knox School is the optimal environment to role model to our students of all ages the importance of equality of opportunity for all.
At TKS this International Women's Day, not only do we acknowledge the inspirational female role models in our lives but also celebrate the spirit of the current generation of students who will be the generation to generate sustainable change.
Ms Nikki Kirkup