Interview with Madeline Price, Director of the One Woman Project

Madeline Price is a social change advocate and the Director and Founder of the One Woman Project. She was shortlisted as a finalist for the Queensland Young Australian of the Year Award in 2015, and has received a number of awards for her work to educate young people about global gender equality.

We caught up with Madeline to talk about gender equality, what got her started, and what keeps her going.

Tell me a bit about yourself!

My name is Madeline Price and I am passionate about global gender equality. I am a sixth and final year Bachelor of Arts/Laws student at the University of Queensland, majoring in Sociology and Journalism.

In addition to studying full-time, I am the Director and Founder of the One Woman Project, one of Queensland’s fastest growing, youth-lead, not-for-profit organisations.

I am an avid rock climber, water-skier and hiker, and spend my spare time guessing the plot-twists to George R. R. Martin novels.

How do you describe the One Woman Project to someone who’s hearing about it for the first time?

The One Woman Project is a youth-lead, not-for-profit organisation dedicated to quality education about, and advocacy promoting of, global gender equality. We run educational seminars, in-school workshops, biannual conferences, online campaigns, and outreach and engagement events.

We have 28 enthusiastic volunteers, passionate about the movement towards global gender equality.

What compelled you to start your own not-for-profit focused on gender equality? Was there a particular incident, or did the idea build up over time?

I think the first time I became acutely aware of global gender inequality was just after I had graduated high school. I was on an alternative to Schoolies trip to a small town, half an hour out of Kampong Cham in Cambodia, working with the organisation Heartland International.

I remember this one particular day, it started just like all the others; the sun was beaming down upon us, sweat was pooling under our legs as we travelled via tuk tuk around this small village, and everywhere I looked, boys outnumbered – disproportionately outnumbered – the girls, and the men outnumbered the women. In the schools, in the workplace, on the farms and in the streets, there were disproportionately more men than women.

I couldn’t help but think, “Where are all the girls?”

My first experience of the harsh realities of global gender inequality is not an unusual one – many a young person on their first trip abroad will be confronted with inequalities not perceived at home. But that simple thought, “Where are all the girls?” opened my eyes to the gender disparities faced both abroad and in Australia.

I started talking to my friends about issues of gender inequality. Of how, when I graduated my law degree I would be paid 17% less than my male counterparts, how, as a young woman, I stood a one in three chance of being sexually assaulted within my lifetime, and how media representations and societal stereotypes have told me that women can’t be engineers, that women aren’t good at mathematics, that women excel at the humanities and social sciences.

And do you know what happened?

My friends all turned to me, their brows creased in confusion, and said the most simple, yet most damaging words: “But we are equal.”

Everywhere I turned, I had people telling me that global gender inequality was a thing of the past, that it was a stalled and finished movement, that everyone was equal; so let it go, okay?

But I couldn’t let it go. My friends all truly believed that we were all as equal as we could get – it wasn’t that they didn’t care, it was just that they didn’t know.

I remember I had just started my third year of university and was on a Summer Semester abroad in Prague, when the idea came to me. Locking myself in my dorm-room for days – and living off the leftovers my roommates delivered to my bedroom door to ensure I didn’t starve to death in my cave of creativity – I developed a program plan: the outline of an organisation that would run educational seminars for university students (for people just like my friends) about different topics of global gender inequality.

And thus, the One Woman Project was born.

What have been some of the highlights for you as Director of the One Woman Project?

For me, every time I see a volunteer succeed – be it in selling out of tickets to our latest Brisbane’s Finest Feminists conference or having a full house at an engagement event – they are my highlights. I am privileged to be a part of such an enthusiastic, passionate and hardworking team, and getting to be a part of their successes inspires me everyday.

What kinds of outcomes are you seeing as a result of the work you’re doing in schools and universities in Queensland?

There is definitely an increase in awareness about issues of global gender equality. We have seen traditionally conservative schools support the founding of feminist groups and SGD (Sexuality and Gender Diverse) groups on their campuses. We see a lot of young people we engage with come back for more (we have a high hit rate of visiting students for an in-school workshop and then seeing them at every engagement event, seminar and conference we host for the rest of that year!). We have also had quite a few past participants collaborating on creating their own gender-focused social enterprises and non-for-profit organisations.

By far, the best moments of my day are receiving an email from a young person that a volunteer from my team has engaged with, telling us a story of her family leaving a domestically violent situation because of the helplines they accessed through a One Woman Project seminar, or changing a career path because she did not believe there was a future for her in STEM and our engagement event showed her that there was, or from young men passionate about solving issues of gendered socialisation who want us to come and speak to their all boys high schools. Those changes, behind closed doors, are the most important of all.

It’s clear that you strongly believe in the power that education can have in transforming attitudes, what else would you like to see happen to achieve gender equality in Australia and the world?

I am passionate about education and believe it lies at the heart of solving all other issues of global gender equality – from domestic and intimate partner violence, to societal stereotypes that lead to a devaluation of women in the workforce and of men in the home, to intersectional issues of gender and disability, race, class, education and sexuality.

What I would like to see is wider support of these issues through setting tangible goals. In the recently devised Sustainable Development Goals (from the United Nations) the goal to achieve gender equality is one of the only goals that does not have tangible, time-bound aims. The outcome of this is that countries that are bound by the SDGs, (such as Australia) who are failing on these goals to achieve equality, can sit on their laurels and berate less developed nations for failing to achieve other goals, because there is no specific deadline, or minimum standard to achieve.

What exciting things are coming up for you for the rest of the year and into 2017?

Coming up at the end of this year we have our Brisbane Feminist Festival presents ‘Women in Work’ conference focusing on all things work and gender related!

We then kick off 2017 with our major International Women’s Day event and our inaugural awards celebrating gender advocates in Queensland. Keep your eyes peeled for those!

What/who keeps you going when the going gets tough?

I am privileged to have a strong family support network (my Mum, Dad and sister, Sophie) and my partner (Peter) who are always there for me when I want to give up. I am also a fan of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and if she can assimilate after being trapped in a bunker, I can get over whatever hurdle life throws at me.

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_MG_9596_EditCropCourtney is a Canberra based writer and communications worker with a Bachelor of Arts (Journalism and Political Science) from the University of Queensland. Her writing has been published by Feminartsy and in Semper Floreat and Change Makers magazine. You can follow her for very occasional tweets @celawler.

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