ADVOCATES have come together to share the work being done - and yet to be done - to achieve gender equality in central Victoria.
An event at Bendigo's Old Church on the Hill this week provided an insight into ongoing projects, such as a leadership program for women with disabilities.
Palika 'Polly' Woodward is in the process of starting her own business so she can keep using the skills and experience she has developed throughout her career.
"I am a fully qualified disability support worker but because of my own health I can no longer do the job I used to do," Mrs Woodward said.
Her health no longer permits her to hoist and shower people, as she used to be able to.
"Because I can't do the whole role of what I used to do and that I'm trained in, it cuts me out from all employment altogether," Mrs Woodward said.
She said the industry had a tendency to focus on what she could not do, rather than what she could.
"I've decided to provide the services I can do and have a lot of knowledge and experience in, which is peer support, advocacy and community access," Mrs Woodward said.
She said women with disability continued to encounter barriers in the workforce.
"It's being seen as lesser and less competent and not able to do the job as well, even if you are more experienced, more knowledgeable and more competent," she said.
"Because of your disability, you're seen as as a liability."
She said she had turned to entrepreneurship rather than waiting for someone else to see her potential.
"And I am going to employ other people with disabilities," Mrs Woodward said.
"I know I've got so much to give back, but I just have to find a different way rather than expecting others to provide that for me."
She said having taken time out from the workforce could also be a barrier to employment.
"It's very hard to get back into the workforce because of references, disconnection from employment groups, and then with a disability you have that added burden on top," Mrs Woodward said.
Women's Health Loddon Mallee chief executive Tricia Currie said the Eat, Learn, Share initiative was about sharing a vision for gender equality.
She said it was a vision that would ensure people could aspire to be diverse, and communities were not just inclusive but thriving.
The event, hosted by Women's Health Loddon Mallee, falls within the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.
Gender inequality is the underlying cause of violence against women.
Ms Currie said the movement helped to keep people motivated to make long-term change.
"Sometimes when you're quietly chipping away, it does draw down on your effort and you're looking to see what difference you're making in that space," she said.
"Sometimes it's a long-term change we're working towards, so by putting your head up you can see all the other pieces that are happening around the place and link into that momentum that's going on across communities."
She said the global movement brought with it the sense of a broadening commitment for people to actually look to see how they could call out the importance of acting respectfully towards women in all walks of life.
"It's putting your hand up and it's saying not only will I call it out, I'm going to take action in my place and my setting to ensure women are respected and that gender equality is something that is a wonderful asset for our whole community," Ms Currie said.
The 16 Days of Activism started on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
It finishes on December 10, which is Human Rights Day.
One in three Australian women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15, and one in five Australian women have experienced sexual violence.
Women with disability are more likely to experience violence.
If you or someone you know is in need of help, contact the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service by calling 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or visiting 1800respect.org.au.
In an emergency, phone 000.
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