The Gender Initiative To #PressForProgress on Sexual Harassment

MELBOURNE – In the lead up to International Women’s Day, the New York Times (NYT) Director of Gender Initiative efforts, Francesca Donner, spoke at the University of Melbourne on opening a global conversation for sexually harassed women through a series of NYT Global Gender Initiative newsletters.

In an effort to cover how gender shapes lives, Ms. Donner revealed that the newsletter started with the goal of hearing the stories from everyday women. The purpose is to unpack and help make sense of situations and experiences of harassment and suffrage. Gender rose as a topic of universal interest to help women realize they’re not alone, Ms. Donner stated. Within the first issue of the newsletter, the Gender Initiative had received over a 1,000 emails on individual stories and experiences.

“It was a tsunami of news,” Ms. Donner said, regarding the amount of stories that stemmed from conversations on gender matters.

Aayushi, a student who was present at the talk, agreed with Ms. Donner’s statements. “Stories from the Gender Initiative take away the glamour, it’s not just actresses that experience horrific things, but women like you and I. It prompts dialog around it; a starting point for many who bottle it up,” said Aayushi.

In a personal question and answer session on how the Gender Initiative has impacted women in jobs who couldn’t voice out their experiences, Ms. Donner stated that it has the impact to open the door for conversation. Whether it be a friend or family member, it encourages women to take some action, as small as it may be. “We wanted to elevate this conversation to a national level, and that is really powerful,” Ms. Donner said. She continued on, stating that the newsletter was filled with user generated content, whether it be poems or stories, the response was immensely positive and influential.

Ms. Donner concluded the talk with the next phase of the initiative. “You start trickling down into the huge swaths of people who are suffering, who are not glamorous. One of the things is to start looking at women in factories, who are suffering in different ways, and not be in a position to tell their story. Those stories are essential,” she said. That is what the newsletters are now striving for, to get at every single woman who thought they had to suffer alone, and it’s about fighting for every woman, Ms. Donner said.

The conversation is still not over and it opens up dialog for men, too, claimed Luke,* a student present at the talk. “It makes you take a step back and think, it’s so relevant that you start to question nuances in your own behavior,” he said.

International Women’s Day will campaign the #PressForProgress theme on March 8. The movement aims to close the gender parity including the end to violence against women as brought up by the Gender Initiative. Rallies and marches will be held across the world to unify the entire community to think and act inclusively.

**written originally in 2018

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