Celebrating International Women’s Day – Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress with Red Dust

Your grandmothers have fought hard for what we have, but we are still a long way from real equity. It is important to know the difference between equity and equality, and to understand that gender equity and inclusivity is complex.

Celebrating International Women’s Day – Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress with Red Dust

As we gear up to celebrate International Women’s Day, a day dedicated to honouring the extraordinary achievements and contributions of women globally, it’s essential to recognise the pivotal role that investing in women plays in accelerating progress closer to home. This year’s theme, ‘Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress.’ (UN Women Australia, 2024), underscores the critical role women’s economic empowerment plays in achieving gender equality and building a more prosperous world for all.

At Small Change Big Change, we firmly believe that investing in women is not just the right thing to do, it’s essential for progress. That’s why we’re proud to partner with incredible organisations like Red Dust, which are dedicated to empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth through innovative health, wellbeing, and reconciliation programs.

To gain a deeper understanding of IWD’s theme and its significance in the real world, we invited two inspiring female leaders from Red Dust to share their thoughts. Erin Riddel, Healthy Living Program Manager and Kyleen Randall, Strong Young Women’s Program Manager shed light on the transformative power of investing in women and girls, particularly within our remote Indigenous communities.

“Your grandmothers have fought hard for what we have, but we are still a long way from real equity. It is important to know the difference between equity and equality, and to understand that gender equity and inclusivity is complex. It is affected by age, ethnicity, location, ability, sexuality, gender identity and, in the context of Red Dust, by colonisation and ongoing oppression and disparity.”

–Erin Riddell, Red Dust’s Healthy Living Program Manager

Investing in Women: Building Bridges Through Collaboration

Erin shares Red Dust’s approach to ‘investing in women’, highlighting the organisation’s unwavering commitment to fostering a culture of inclusivity. “At Red Dust,” she explains, “we are all about creating a space where women can thrive. We strive to ensure our teams have gender balance amongst our facilitators. It’s important for young women and girls to have older women to identify with, particularly First Nations women. Our programs need to make space for girls and young women to lead and challenge any limitations placed upon them.”

This commitment to inclusivity isn’t just performative; it’s woven into the very fabric of Red Dust’s work. As Kyleen further explains, “Red Dust have been great at including and elevating the voices of women that work within the organisation along with advocating for the voices of Aboriginal women in community to ensure their needs and views are expressed and shared appropriately.” This collaborative spirit extends beyond Red Dust’s internal operations. It guides their approach to working with communities, ensuring deep partnerships and programs that are truly empowering, inclusive and strength-based.

Education: The Seeds of Change

Erin emphasises the importance of education in fostering a culture of investment and diversity, especially for young girls and women. “Education provides space for girls and young women to explore their identity, voice and their leadership style,” she explains. Erin goes beyond simply highlighting the importance of education; she underscores the need for diverse educational experiences.  “Both education and teachers can take many forms, not just a conventional classroom or someone with a blackboard,” she says. “Education, teaching and learning takes place all the time.”

Red Dust prioritises creating safe learning spaces specifically tailored to young women and girls. “It is critical that Red Dust makes conscious efforts to engage young women and girls,” says Erin. “We build diverse teams that elevate First Nations women and the diverse expertise they hold. Education and learning is also relational. It is critical that young women and girls have the opportunity to form strong and healthy relationships with others. Our programs seek to contribute to this.” By fostering a culture of learning that is inclusive, engaging, and culturally relevant, Red Dust empowers young women to become strong leaders and advocates within their communities.

Celebrating Strength and Resilience: Women Who Inspire

As International Women’s Day approaches, Erin’s message is one of profound recognition for the remarkable work of First Nations women in Australia. “My message is one of recognition to the fierce and unrelenting work of First Nations women in Australia, who shoulder a disproportionate responsibility of the work – from reconciliation, healing, and justice, to family, economics, and stewardship”.

Both Erin and Kyleen find inspiration in the countless women who dedicate their lives to creating positive change, with Erin even calling out her co-worker, Kyleen as “a source of inspiration for often speaking up and advocating for matters related to community and women in particular.” Red Dust’s Strong Young Women’s Program Coordinators who are local Aboriginal women, were also mentioned, consistently inspiring Erin with the programs they co-design and facilitate with young women in the community. “As strong young Aboriginal women themselves, they lead by example and create spaces for the young women they work with to shine. There is integrity and strength in their processes and approach”. 

When asked about a female figure at Red Dust who inspires her, Kyleen avoided singling out any one person, instead choosing to highlight the collective power of the organisation’s women. “It demonstrates a willingness to work in partnership and collaboration to actively demonstrate what reconciliation looks and feels like.” This sentiment reflects Red Dust’s commitment to empowering all women and creating a space where everyone can contribute their unique talents and perspectives.

In the spirit of the United Nations theme for 2024 International Women’s Day, “Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress,” we honour the tireless efforts of women worldwide and reaffirm our commitment to promoting inclusivity and diversity in all facets of our work. Together, let’s continue to build a more equitable and inclusive society, where every voice is heard and every woman is valued.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let’s not forget the journey ahead. It’s a journey of recognising and uplifting the voices of all women, especially those whose struggles have been historically marginalised. Alongside Red Dust, we stand in solidarity with women everywhere, acknowledging their strength, resilience, and unwavering spirit.

Investing in the Future – Why Red Dust?

Your contribution, however small, can make a significant difference in the lives of young Australians. Through our Small Change Big Change initiative, we support a diverse range of charities, including Red Dust.

Red Dust’s innovative programs are now empowering more than 10,100+ Indigenous youth and families living in 15 remote communities each year. They achieve this by co-designing programs with remote communities, ensuring cultural relevance and effectiveness.

By supporting Red Dust you’re encouraging Indigenous youth and adults to adopt healthier lifestyle choices through the mentoring and influence of positive role models.

By actively involving the community in program development, Red Dust integrates Indigenous knowledges, languages, and perspectives, resulting in a more engaging and effective learning experience for generations of students.

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Celebrating International Women’s Day – Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress with Red Dust