This past weekend women united across the world to celebrate International Women’s Day. At a time where women are still vilified, harassed and abused the world over, it was rather poignant that Australia’s ABC program Q & A aired the following day with its all-women panel. I found myself glued to the TV watching Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in her prime, sharing why she doesn’t identify as being a feminist. She adamantly stated that being a woman isn’t about labelling ourselves, that it is about showing the world what we do and although she is Australia’s first female foreign minister, she does not see the point in women categorising ourselves in a box that has more negative connotations than positive. The topic of feminism was thrown around the room for an hour with questions ranging from the lack of gender equality in the workplace, to sexual harassment and whether young girls posing topless selfies on Instagram was today’s version of feminism. I thought about my own version of feminism and made a mental note how feminism taught me the importance of questioning the status-quo.

I then thought back to my life in Israel last year when I was sitting in a bedouin tent in a placed called Tel Sheva in the Negev listening to the story of a woman named Mariam. Her story was captivating and although I never had the chance to write about her during my time at JPost, I am fortunate I can now. I was expecting a lecture on the trials and tribulations of being a Bedouin, not an in-depth personal spiel about a young woman with a dream. Mariam’s story was inspiring. In her community, it is customary to get married young and have large families but at 24 and single, Mariam packed up her life to study business in England. She came back to her Bedouin community with a degree to match her innate knowledge and skills of making cosmetic products, which had been passed onto her by her grandmother. However, she had no desire to get married. Now, 44, Mariam was recently married and runs a successful business called Desert Daughter from her home in the Negev - a lifestyle few Bedouin women would be entitled to. Her story made me smile and I was moved to buy her camel milk moisturiser.

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Fast forward one year to today and I am back in Australia thinking about feminism watching the ending of Q & A. All panelists are asked about whether they would have wanted to have been born men and a resounding “No” ricochetes across the room and through to viewers’ TVs across the nation. Having encountered inspiring women like Mariam during my year in Israel, I returned to my Jewish community at the start of this year with a dream to make a difference. That I want to be one of those influential women like Mariam who was so strong and bold in embarking on her dreams and that I, too, can be a leader.

In my previous blog, I highlighted why my Zionism only stretches so far and why I was coming home to Perth, the most geographically isolated city in the world. I am now acting as an advocate for the State of Israel through my interactions on campus at university and have recently launched a younger branch of Australia’s oldest running Jewish women’s organisation called the National Council of Jewish Women of Australia. The NCJWA have been running for over 90 years and I feel its slogan of “women working together can achieve anything” can resonate strongly with people from all walks of life. I am now looking forward to fundraising for women’s organisations like the Haifa Rape Crisis Center in Israel and special organisations here in Australia and showing the world that women can do anything.

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