27/02/2017 11:26 AM AEDT | Updated 27/02/2017 11:27 AM AEDT

In 2017, Women's Rights Should Be Human Rights

I am proud to be part of the third wave of feminism and enthusiastically join the fight for equality.

Rekha Garton
There is still a myth that any woman who chooses to identify as a feminist is an angry, man-hating, butch lesbian.

In 1994, Joan Kirner, the 42nd Premier of Victoria, addressed a crowd while on a break from speaking at the International Conference 'Women Power & Politics'. "Seize the moment", she encouraged her fellow patrons at the local pub. "Participate in shaping our nation as we have not done before."

Regardless of where you sit in the political arena, Kirner's call to arms resonated with the women of Australia.

"Thousands of women are anxious to be included in determining their own and their children's future," she said. "Women's collective experience is important, our collective wisdom is unbeatable, our collective strength is formidable, and our continuing exclusion from an equal share of power in shaping society is untenable."

Over 20 years later, her words are still as relevant and powerful as they were back then.

International Women's Day is on March 8 and this year the campaign theme is 'Be Bold For a Change'. Like Kirner and other game-changing feminists, women around the world are called upon to unite in the ongoing battle for equality. While this one particular day is chosen to highlight the cause, our demand for equality needs to be part of everyday life. In everything we do and say we must ensure that our standing as feminists is present.

There is a misconception about feminists and what it is that we are actually fighting for. There is a myth that any woman who chooses to identify as a feminist is an angry, man-hating, butch lesbian. An image of angry witches with hairy armpits dancing around a fire and burning bras comes to mind. This stereotype has been around since the suffrage movement of the late 19th century and is a blatant attempt by our oppressors to undermine and dismiss our cause. The patriarchal culture of male dominance is under threat as women edge their way towards succeeding in our end goal of complete equality.

In her book Speaking Out, Tara Moss identifies gender disparity and explains why women around the world have an obligation to stand up and demand an equal platform. It was 109 years before a female took the office of prime minister in Australia. There has never been a female US president and as of January 2015, women made up only 17 percent of government ministers around the world. In other words, 83 percent of ministers are male and are legislating for the entire population. These legislations include social issues such as women's reproductive rights, the wage gap, violence against women and gender discrimination. "We must acknowledge that having more than four men's voices for every one woman's voice is a disproportionately male version of democracy," Moss states.

With this being said, there are still women who choose to not publicly identify themselves as feminists and understandably so. In her book, Fight Like a Girl, Clementine Ford discusses her dismay with women who position themselves as "foot soldiers" to the patriarchy so as not to enrage those controlling it. These women are seeking to find a position of power within a sexist culture rather than fighting against the culture itself.

The loud voices of the oppressors wishing to maintain their status quo can be at times frightening. When women begin to challenge men they polarise their misconception of what is means to be a woman and it creates unease. Everything that they thought to be true is now being shattered like the glass ceiling placed over the heads of women. I myself have had experienced with this a number of times when men have attempted to silence me because I have dared to stand my ground and fight for my rights and the rights of my daughters. Over time we build resilience and as we are victorious in our pursuits we build confidence.

As a woman and a mother of daughters I am proud to be part of the third wave of feminism and enthusiastically join the fight for equality. While these rights vary over time and across culture I view it as a moral obligation because after all women's rights are really just human rights.