Generations of women, generations of change

Every day I come in to work and I am surrounded by generations of women.

At work, I am managed and supported by passionate, intelligent and driven women. Women with more experience than me, take the time to tell me what’s great about my work and what could be improved. They help guide me down pathways that will build my skills and develop my career. When I am sick, or experience hardships in my life, they want to know how they can help, want to know that I’m okay. When I have ideas, they want to hear what they are, and when they think they’re not viable they give me feedback for next time. And they encourage a next time. Because each person I work with is intimately familiar with the experience of being a woman, and works to make it a better experience for those around her.

I work with women of every generation. We talk to each other, discussion between generations, about all the issues that are affecting women and pregnant people around the world. We share stories of friends and colleagues in other countries and their experiences with access. We share memories, lessons learned and lived experiences that helped us to navigate the world more confidently. We talk about films and TV shows that depict women who remind us of people we know or people we want to be. Because working with women, for women, helps us all to feel seen. It helps us feel united in the work that we do for women’s rights.

We collaborate and work together, providing services to women and pregnant people across the country. Each and every one of us, regardless of age, having imagined ourselves in those shoes; the person who finds themselves unexpectedly pregnant. Or the person who is so excited about their pregnancy, has names picked out, has the nursery underway, only to find that their child won’t survive and they have to decide whether or not to carry to term a baby that will never draw breath.

We talk to these women and these people, from different generations.

We listen when they tell us why this is so hard for them, the barriers they have faced and adversity they’ve overcome just to get to us. They share their lived experiences of assault, abuse, and coercion, of financial distress, of un-supportive partners, overbearing family, and estranged friends, of the long distances they must travel in order to get to us and the childcare they struggled to find. We hold their hands when they ask. And we are awed by their courage. By the strength they demonstrated in calling us, in asking for support from our counselling team, in making a booking to come and see us. We know that the choices they’ve made before arriving at our door can be some of the biggest of their lives.

We talk to these women and these people, from different generations.

We meet their partners and spouses, who hold their hands through consultations. We meet their partners and spouses, who hold their hands through consultations. We meet their parents who come along ‘just so there’s someone to drive you home’, and we listen when they tell us how different it was when they were last in a ‘family planning clinic’. We get recommendations for local coffee shops, for films to go and see, and podcasts we’ll ‘just love’. We hear funny stories about pets, anecdotes about kids, and memories of friends and family that makes these women and people smile. We hold their hands when they ask. And we are grateful to have met them and to have been able to give them access to a healthcare service that is safe and supportive.

The truth is, there is no ‘typical’ woman who comes to see us. They are from all different generations. They are mothers. They are students. They are married. They are single. They are women. They are non-binary. They are trans. They are on the pill. They always use condoms. They track their cycle on a calendar. They are breastfeeding. They just started having sex. They are nervous. They are calm. They make jokes with our staff. They ask for a hand to hold in the procedure room. They are people you know, and strangers you’ll never meet.

I work with women of all generations, and all of us have seen what happens when society wields shame as a weapon. The conversations that were never had, the topics that were never raised, because people felt embarrassed or afraid of asking. And so we make sure that the spaces we operate in are safe ones — ones where women and pregnant people can ask all of their questions. Without judgement. Without shame.

And when, in my workplace, we are confronted by the vitriol and the anger that some people hold for the work that we do, we band together. We lift each other up. We recognise each other’s achievements and hard work. We tell jokes, stories, and funny memories from last week and 3 decades ago. We talk about the people we’ve met and helped through our work and it reminds us of the difference we’re making.

Every day I come in to work and I am surrounded by generations of women. And it is inspiring.

If you are interested in joining the generations of women making change at Marie Stopes Australia, you can see .

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MSI Australia

MSI Australia is the leading, accredited, national provider for abortion, contraception and vasectomy.