International Women’s Day Tomorrow

1a prue hyman‘Still a long way to go’ to change the economic and social systems holding women back

By Prue Hymansilvia cartright

Tomorrow (March 8) is International Women’s Day which should have a strongly political and feminist agenda as well as being a celebration.

In Wellington there is a Parliamentary breakfast with Dame Silvia Cartwright as speaker.


In this context she should particularly be remembered for presiding over the 1988 inquiry into cervical cancer and its treatment at Auckland’s National Women’s Hospital.

This inquiry was pivotal in feminist analysis of the health system and the treatment of women within it.

There are other events all over the country, with Kapiti celebrating early last week with a brunch and speaker Lady Susan Satyanand.

 Triathlon part of the celebrations

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was the same day as another important Kapiti occasion, the annual triathlon which brings together women of all shapes and ages for a friendly participation event supported by many women and men volunteers and families.

I did the sea swim in a relay team, as I have for almost all of the 30 plus years this event has been going – an annual ritual which makes me swim all year! (Scroll down to 28 February for our article on the KWT.)

Two months ago I wrote about the UN General Assembly’s adoption of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (

 Empowering all women and girls

For International Women’s Day it seems appropriate to emphasise Goal 5 – “to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls,”

Ambitious targets in many areas are spelled out to achieve this, although there is a very long way to go change economic and social systems and policies sufficiently.

UN special report 

Poverty 2A UN Women report on the challenges and achievements in implementing the MDGs which preceded these SDGs stressed that:

investing in women and girls has a multiplier effect on productivity, efficiency and sustained economic growth and that women’s economic independence is vital to their role as full and equal partners for development and essential to the achievement of the Goals, including the eradication of poverty… It emphasises that “the safety, human rights, education and empowerment of women are pivotal in the post- 2015 debate.”

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka


Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka argues that: “Not one single country has

achieved equality:

it is even more urgent than ever that we define – and stick to – a time frame for doing so. In Africa, 70 per cent of crop production depends on women yet women still own only two per cent of the land.”

 NZ-ers can’t be complacent

White ribbonNor should we be complacent about the position of women in New Zealand.

From violence against women and children, through the recognition and valuing of the unpaid work done disproportionately by women, to inequalities in the labour market, there is much to do.

Many women’s organisations continue to work in all these areas, as well as supporting our sisters in the Pacific.

UN Women NZ is currently working on projects in the Solomon and Marshall Islands.

 Horrible statistics from the Solomons

In the Solomons 64% of women report experience of physical or sexual violence by a partner. However, very few seek redress through the formal justice system.

The project aims to develop safer and more supportive para-legal advice for women within their communities.

In the Marshalls, the project supports training of grassroots women towards participation in elections and civic life.

 Let’s ‘focus on NZ gender equality’

Let’s use International Women’s Day to focus on the issues impeding gender equality in New Zealand. A good start is to read and act on recent analysis from the National Council ofWomen.  (

Their recent paper argues that “Gender inequality persists in all aspects of our society. It negatively impacts businesses, our economy, families and the community, as well as individuals.”

Gender is still a barrier to many people having the freedom and opportunity to determine their own future. This is evident:

  • Over half the New Zealanders graduating are women but where to from there?
    Over half the New Zealanders graduating are women but where to from there?

    Women achieve 61 per cent of the tertiary qualifications but they are often in lower paid industries than tertiary qualified men.

  • Estimates of our gender pay gap range from women being paid 11.8 per cent to 14 per cent less.
  •  Only 14 per cent of directors on NZX 100 top companies are women. Nearly 42 per cent of public sector directors are female.
  •  One in four women experience intimate partner violence or sexual violence in their   lifetime.

 Five pre-requisites

The paper identifies five prerequisites to a gender equal New Zealand.

gender equality 2These include:

~ forming a shared understanding of the issues,

~ creating a gender positive culture and

~ ensuring we have leadership and governance, structural equality and data and monitoring in place.

It outlines 12 actions we can all take to progress these prerequisites. These include speaking out against sexism, ensuring we have the right policies in place and encouraging leaders to champion gender equality within their sectors, industries, communities and families.”