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Now that Tony Abbott is a #HeForShe campaigner we can put him to work

In a gesture of support for gender equality, and no doubt in the hope of saving his political career, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has signed the HeForShe campaign pledge to coincide with International Women’s Day this week in Canberra.

The commemorative breakfast was held and politicians were invited to sign the pledge, which commits signatories to “take action against all forms of violence and discrimination faced by women and girls” and to acknowledge that “gender equality is not only a women’s issue, it is a human rights issue that requires [their] participation”.

This is no doubt a big step in the right direction for the prime minister, who has previously been labelled as sexist for his comments about women in both the parliamentary domain and the general public.

The minister for women is now on board with the other 10,000 people who have signed the pledge, which was launched by Emma Watson last year and encourages men and boys to take a stand on gender equality.

“Real men don’t threaten or bully women,” Abbott said at the breakfast. “Violence against women is abhorrent.”

The gesture is certainly there, but he’s still got a lot to prove before we go giving him a big pat on the back or anything. Here’s what we’d like to see from him to know he’s really invested in the #HeForShe campaign and gender equality.

Putting flexible working arrangements on the table

In a recent report, it was found women are receiving less pay than men because they don’t go for high-paying roles, reportedly because such roles don’t allow for flexibility, especially if having and raising a child is a priority. Let’s have a discussion about what more flexibility at work can mean for both men and women and how that can impact closing the wage gap between the sexes.

Engaging in the violence against women debate

A discussion was had by ABC panel program, Q&A, last month about how domestic violence is a serious issue in Australia, resulting in one woman each week being killed. Noticeably absent from the discussion was Tony Abbott. We’d like to see the minister for women address issues women face as a result of domestic violence, including support programs for women who leave violent relationships.

An open dialogue about the rights of women and their bodies

How can we forget the time Prime Minister Abbott came out saying women were basically getting abortions because they’re lazy? Here’s the quote if you’ve blocked it from your memory. “The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience.” A better dialogue about women and the right to manage their bodies would be a great start to Abbott’s #HeForShe campaign.

Stopping the patronisation

Prime Minister Abbott isn’t known for being politically correct, but some sweeping changes to his comments about women are required. This is one unforgettable comment he made back in 2010: “What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing is that if they get it done commercially it’s going to go up in price and their own power bills when they switch the iron on are going to go up, every year.”

Working to eradicate sexism in party politics

His own chief of staff, Peta Credlin, as well as former prime minister, Julia Gillard, have been met with gender bias in the political domain, but we’d like to see more support coming from Abbott for women in high-profile positions, like this comment he made about Credlin: “Do you really think my chief of staff would be under this kind of criticism if her name was Peter as opposed to Peta?” Abbott said, adding, “I think people need to take a long hard look at themselves with some of these criticisms.”

What do you think Prime Minister Tony Abbott needs to do to prove he’s taking the #HeForShe campaign seriously?

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