The WRAP#47- The transformative power of data, Elder abuse, and 60 Seconds with Melek Cetiner

October has certainly been far from boring. We watched closely as the same-sex plebiscite came and went and continue to watch as it comes back into play. We celebrated International Day of the Girl and Mental Health Week, prompting us to reflect on the importance of accurate, intersectional and gender specific data about girls’ lives. At the other end of the life course, we explain why elder abuse needs an intersectional lens.

We also chat to Melek Cetiner about her love of music, books and film and her vision for a peaceful and united world.

Until next time,
the WRAP team.

The Transformative Power of Data

Image via

Image via

For the majority of teens living in high-income countries ‘data’ is generally associated with mobile phone plans. However, for many more young girls and women living in lower resourced countries around the world, data could literally mean the difference between life and death. More specifically, data about girls’ lives can assist in alleviating the social, economic and health inequalities experienced by girls as a result of persistent gender discrimination.  It’s important to remember, too, that many girls are also discriminated against due to their race, ethnicity, ability, sexuality and migration status.

The theme of this year’s International Day of the Girl Child (11th October to be exact) was a ‘global girl data movement’, which is a call for action for increased investment in collecting and analysing girl-focused, girl-relevant and sex-disaggregated data. It’s not mere rhetoric when the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) urges us to harness the power of and invest in data, because the current evidence on gender disparities demands that we take action. For instance, globally less than 40 per cent of pregnant adolescent girls (younger than 20) have their first antenatal care visit within the first trimester as recommended.

As we discovered in our analyses of the sexual and reproductive health of immigrant and refugee women in Australia, the evidence base is lacking in many key areas such as abortion, contraceptive use and unplanned pregnancy. In many cases, no data is routinely collected, while in some cases when specific data is collected (such as classifications used to measure ethnicity), the data is often ambiguous and potentially misleading.

Statistics don’t merely exist in a vacuum but arise from a host of social, cultural and economic variables. As a first step, approaches to data collection needs to recognise these variables along with the intersectional discrimination and disadvantage experienced by women and girls. Secondly, it’s critical that we begin collecting, measuring and monitoring data across core areas relating to gender equality: education, employment, leadership, health and wellbeing, and including health promotion and the prevention of violence, and not just in relation to acute care and response.

A recent report has highlighted many of the gender inequality issues affecting young women and girls in Australia, but we still need to understand better the ways these issues affect women and girls in all their diversity. Including robust data collection strategies as part of policy and program interventions can transform the lives of girls through to adulthood and a healthy long age. Data as a form of knowledge is power, and it also holds us accountable. We need to equip policy-makers and other key decision-makers with gendered data so that they can make informed, evidence-based actions for future generations of women.

Elder Abuse: it’s not just about age

Photo of an older woman smiling

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

Ageing, as in the grey and wrinkly variety, is rarely spoken about in the youth-obsessed cultures of countries like Australia. The invisibility of older people in the public consciousness is a concern and when older people are treated unfairly and denied opportunities in everyday life then it’s also a clear case of ageism. Just as racism isn’t entirely about race, ageism isn’t simply about chronology, but a form of prejudice that stereotypes difference and erases individual experience.

While luck and good genes certainly play a role, reaching and living though old age also relies on your capacity to maintain a reasonable level of health and wellbeing. Along with physical and cognitive changes, older people must also deal with changing economic, social and cultural circumstances. Retirement, loss of loved ones and social connections, loneliness, migration and increased dependency are just some of the factors that, along with age, can increase an older person’s vulnerability. Yet Australia’s ageing population is often categorised as a homogenous form of ‘diversity’ rather than a population that is in itself diverse.

Elder abuse, as a specific form of violence that affects elderly women, is a good case in point. Elder abuse is generally defined as any harmful act directed at an older person and that occurs within a relationship where there is an expectation of trust. Like all definitions, however, this is only the starting point for understanding what the interconnected issues and solutions might be. Older women, as with the rest of the Australian population, are a diverse group. Understanding the diversity that exists between, across and within certain groups of older women is critical for preventing and responding to elder abuse.

For older immigrant and refugee women, vulnerability is not only tied to all the other vulnerabilities typically tied to older age, but also to their experiences as non-English speakers, as newly-arrived migrants, and/or as carers to their Australian grandchildren. Immigrant women’s reliance on family members for translation and financial transactions, for example, has implications for potential abuse. In addition, intergenerational responsibilities and power dynamics between older women and other family members play out differently across different immigrant groups. All these factors require careful consideration.

If we’re now at a point in time that understands gender needs must be the focus of violence  prevention efforts, then it will serve us well to remember that it is an intersectional, gendered approach that will help us not only identify, but expose the persistent and underlying issues driving violence against women.

The lesser value assigned to older people—particularly older women—might signify our fears about going grey and wrinkly, yet it’s the relative invisibility of older immigrant and refugee women that is perhaps more telling of the deeper thinking required to advance gender equality for all women.

For older immigrant and refugee women, prevention of elder abuse needs to expose and respond to ageism, racism, and other discriminatory practices, all at the same time.

MCWH and the University of Melbourne’s joint submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission can be accessed here.

60 seconds with Melek Cetiner

Melek Photo

Cross-cultural trainer and social justice warrior

What are you enjoying doing at the moment?
Spending time with my grandchildren and enjoy watching them enjoying the moment and appreciating the little things in everyday life.

If you were a super-heroine, what powers would you like to have?
To eliminate poverty, violence, war and discrimination.

If you had a magic wand, what would you use it for?
Change the words of those who incite fear and division to words of encouragement, kindness and unity.

Biggest challenge as a woman from an immigrant background?
I was a child migrant. We migrated under the “White Australian Policy”. Like most first generation migrant kids, I took on the grown up role both in my family and my community as an interpreter for all issues. I was booked up everyday after school and school holidays to interpret for some one in the community.

Name a book or film that changed your life.
It’s hard to name one. Every book I read, film and play I saw has changed something in me, my life and the way I see the world. It is incremental and accumulative. I believe, it teaches me so much about the complexities of life, politics, social issues about people, relationships and about me and how I see the world.

What has been the biggest challenge about living in Australia so far?
Finding myself in the new country. Finding a way to belong to my new country whilst maintaining my identity and belonging to my roots. Seeking ways to learn how to be a contributing member of the society in which I live.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone new to Australia, what would it be?
It’s not always going to be like this. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself, embrace who you are and your heritage, explore possibilities, make new friends, allow time and be kind to yourself.

Tell me about an amazing woman you know.
There are and have been so many inspiring women in various stages of my life. Maybe I start with my friends. They are inspiring, capable, caring, creative and made a real difference to my life and continue to contribute to my life every day. My mother is another; I always say I want to be like my mother when I grow up. She is not afraid of the new or the different. She is a great story teller and has a proverb for every occasion. She is sharp, strong, independent supportive and kind. I have met some amazing woman in my varying roles, who taught me so much. Most of all, the woman who I work with (clients) from all walks of life who are resilient, smart, adaptable and supportive to those around them whilst they are working through their own issues, all at the same time.

What are you reading right now?
I try daily to scan through a few papers (including the ones not written in Australia) in the mornings before I get to work. Not always very successfully. I get in to a bit more detail on the weekends I try to read material to improve my knowledge in the area of my work. I have just started reading “Talking to My Nation”, and I recently read, “Australia Second Chance” which provides a very unique history of Australia dating back to 1788.

What is your favourite possession?
My memories.

What does multiculturalism mean to you?
Where we all live together valuing the strengths in our differences, and caring for those who are just arriving. Remembering we were all new arrivals once and we all remember those who were kind and helped us settle in to our new country.  

If you could meet the Prime Minister tomorrow, what would like to tell him?
Be humane, be authentic, and be kind to the refugees, asylum seekers and members of our society who have been made vulnerable. Invest equally in education for the children of our society. They are the nation’s future.

Finish this sentence: “We need feminism because…”
…we haven’t achieved gender equality yet.