Progress for women is happening, slowly
"PROGRESS can be hard to gauge a lot the time,” One Woman Project Founder/Director Madeline Price says on a rainy day in Gympie's Memorial Park.
"With the work we do, we often hear of individual stories, but it's a lot more difficult to gauge how things are changing on a wider scale.”
Despite this, the young Imbil-born activist insists, things are getting better for women around the world.
But there's still a lot of work to do, and progress can be achingly slow - especially considering the a very vocal pushback to contemporary feminist issues in political and media environments.
The challenge for Ms Price is to try and convince them otherwise, something that can be extraordinarily difficult.
As the head of the project, which has it's roots in Ms Price's school days and his since grown into a national phenomenon, she's striving to at the very least start a conversation.
"The thing is, fundamentally we're looking to achieve the same thing, and that's equality for all,” she says.
"Where I think things differ is the view on how to get there, and what the end result would actually look like.”
Another roadblock is the stubborn belief that issues of identity are mutually exclusive from economic disparity and class.
"That's often seen as the reason why the U.S. election went the way it did, because there was too much focus on identity instead of class,” Ms Price says.
"And when you're trying to explain these concepts of privilege to somebody who's struggling to place food on the table, it's incredibly difficult.
"But the truth is gender and sexuality have a knock-on effect, one absolutely affects the other.”
So, in an increasingly divided world, where a rapidly-widening political schisms push people apart, how would someone like Madeline Price reach common understanding?
By starting a conversation she says, and the best place to do that is at home.
As a young woman growing up in regional Queensland, Ms Price says she was aware of the barriers placed in front of her, but shrugged it off as by-product of conservative country mindset.
It was only after leaving high school and seeing the wider world that she realised the problem extended far beyond the Wide Bay.
"At the end of high school we took an 'alternative Schoolies' trip overseas, to Cambodia,” she says.
"I'd known there was really bad inequality in places like this, but seeing it in person was a real crystallising moment for me.”
When she got home, she saw that while the problems themselves were different, the outcome was the same - a broken system putting women on the back pedal.
What would come to be known as the One Woman Project would be born shortly afterward, growing steadily in size and reach as Madeline pursued her tertiary studies.
"I think it really became a lot bigger than I was ever expecting it to,” she says.
"In a lot of ways our timing helped us enormously - when we started around 2013 it was just when the big social push for social justice and gender equality was gaining momentum.”
Under her guidance, the work of the project, which focuses on workshops, round-tables and social events, has won Ms Price and her team of volunteers acclaim.
And while she, and the project, and now head quartered in Brisbane and Canberra, she says the focus on regional communities like Gympie hasn't wavered.
Same Problems, Different Scenery
"A lot of the problems women face in big cities are also faced in regional communities,” Ms Price says.
"But yes, there are things specific to the regions as well.”
For example, challenging the male-dominated view of industries like farming and agriculture, as well as encouraging more women in the regions to look beyond a life in housework.
"That's not disparaging anybody who wants to do those things, I can't stress that enough,” she says.
"We work with a lot of younger women, but an interesting theme we see with the older generations is that the question about what else they could doesn't get asked nearly as much.”
Beyond the realm of employment, health services are another issue where the regions need to improve, with a still-present taboo surrounding discussions of domestic/family violence and mental health.
"Again,” she stresses, "good work can be done by just having a conversation”.
"Good things are happening all the time, I want to make that clear - the end of goal for organisations like One Woman Project is that one day we won't be needed any more.”