Today our guest blogger is Hannah Wandel who will be our inspirational guest speaker at our next Young Farming Champions workshop
Hannah is the founder of Country to Canberra. She is a young woman with a passion for gender equality and is disrupting the status quo and on a quest to ensure all girls can reach their potential. In the Victorian era women were expected to be educated in order to entertain: pouring tea without dripping was more important than ideas. Gender equality has come a long way since the Victorian era but as Hannah acknowledges there is still a long way to go
This is Hannah’s story ……….
On countless cold, blustering winter’s days, I remember fixing fences on our farm with my two older sisters. We were just kids, but my parents were adamant that we were capable and able to do anything we set out minds to.
Whether it was farming, schoolwork or sports, as three young rural women, we were always supported (and in the case of the detested fencing, strongly encouraged!) to achieve our goals.
I was privileged to have this upbringing, but I quickly learnt that this wasn’t always the norm. Friends of mine often didn’t have a choice but to stay inside while their brothers worked the land. They weren’t encouraged to study their passions, and often didn’t have the support, or crucially, the self-belief to access the opportunities they desired. Too many times, other people tore them down, and stereotypes crept through.
But it was throughout university, that the concept of gender inequality really hit home. I was working as a journalist during the reign of Australia’s first-ever female Prime Minister, and whether you’re a fan of her politics or not, most can agree that Julia Gillard was treated dismally. Whether it was her hair, her boyfriend or her outfit choices, the Prime Minister’s leadership capabilities were consistently belittled.
Sadly, when I looked further afield, my concerns only increased. Just 30 per cent of Australia’s federal politicians were female, we had an 18 per cent gender pay gap (now 16 percent), and more men called Peter were running Australia’s ASX 200 companies than women altogether.
At a similar time, I grew increasingly concerned about rural and remote education. Passionate about country communities thriving and succeeding, I was shocked to hear that the more remote a student gets, the worse attitudes to schooling and school completion rates are. Distance, time and funding barriers were preventing rural kids from accessing the education and career opportunities they deserved.
Pairing these issues together, I saw a niche group of young women in rural Australia needing additional support. I felt a call-to-action, and a desire to help these young women succeed. So I had an idea, and that idea was Country to Canberra.
Founded in 2014, Country to Canberra is a volunteer-driven nationwide not-for-profit organisation that empowers young rural women to reach their leadership potential. Our award-winning programs provide leadership training, inspire self-belief and connect teenage girls with mentors and role models. From the ABC to WIN News, we’ve been featured in hundreds of media outlets and have made a huge difference in scores of girls’ lives. Our flagship program is a national leadership competition, where winners are awarded with a ‘Power Trip’ to the ACT to meet CEOs, Ministers, receive leadership and public speaking training from the likes of TEDx, formal mentorship and more.
We know the impact strong female role models have on young women’s leadership aspirations. Recently, the New York Times found that nearly a quarter of teenage girls said Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential candidacy encouraged them to seek leadership positions. From the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek, our Power Trip connects girls to powerful female leaders, and equips winners with skills and knowledge to share widely in their local communities.
In addition to our Leadership Competition and Power Trip, we mentor and facilitate a ‘Blogger Team’ of young women, giving them a platform to discuss key issues and showcase their talents. Excitingly, we have also just won Holden and SBS’s first-ever grant to run our ‘Project Empower’ leadership workshops in rural and remote schools across Australia. We’ll be traveling to every state and territory to reach as many students as possible to ensure all young women know their self-worth, know how to identify and discuss equality issues, and are empowered to achieve their dreams. This is a game-changer for Country to Canberra, and will give us an ability to reach more young women and communities than ever before.
Personally, I put my heart and soul into Country to Canberra. From seeking grants and sponsorships to managing social media accounts, I run Country to Canberra pro bono and lead a team of 13 volunteers, while also working full-time at the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet. Plus, like most volunteers, my passion has pulled me into other great initiatives, and I am also a Board Director at YWCA Canberra, a Global Shaper through the World Economic Forum and a Director of the National Rural Women’s Coalition.
It can be tiring, but anytime I even begin to feel an ounce of fatigue, I remember the incredible impact we have had on so many young rural women. I muse about our Power trip winner Ellecha, who told me that she has never had anyone believe in her the way Country to Canberra did. I think about Nooria, who migrated from Afghanistan to Alice Springs as a child, who says that Country to Canberra changed her life forever. But I also think about the girls who were told ‘to stay in the kitchen’ instead of play football, as recounted by our Teen Blogger Hannah, and I ponder a 2015 survey by Plan International and Our Watch, which found that one-third of young women believed it would be easier to secure their “dream job” in Australia if they were male. This motivates me to continue striving to create change, and build pathways for girls to thrive.
Whether its farming or fixing fences, teaching, politics, or something entirely new, Country to Canberra is proactive about disrupting the status quo and ensuring all girls can reach their potential. In five, 10 or 15 years time, we don’t want any young women to live in a world where women are subject to structural bias. We don’t want them to earn less compared to their male counterparts and we don’t want women to be dying at the hands of their partners. We want them to thrive on an even playing field, and I genuinely believe it’s our contemporary duty to build it.