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VP Issues Update

Updated: Apr 15

March 2024

Kia ora koutou,

The year has begun with a flying start (which has felt at times, to me, sometimes a bit bumpy and all too busy!)

The Coalition government's first 100 days are up, and they made major legislative decisions relating to fair pay, smoking, Māori health, income insurance, benefits, disabled people, and climate action. We are an apolitical organisation and we advocate around the policy decisions before us. The above items have significant impacts on women and children, particularly Māori, and in each case, we must ask, where was the gender and intersectional lens in these policy decisions? Is this government considering the impact on women, and using gender mainstreaming*, in their decision-making? Many items have been legislated in Parliament under urgency and without public consultation; BPW NZ and other civil societies, therefore, have not had a voice.

International Women's Day (Invest in women: Accelerate Progress**) gives us a chance to celebrate women and our progress towards equality, but also renew our commitment to our rights, especially where there is no progress or backward movement (e.g. gender pay gap, online harm, women in leadership, violence against women). It is also an opportunity to have an international lens on the rights of women globally, and we are fortunate to be able to connect so closely with our BPW sisters all over the world as one of the larger civil societies in over 100 countries. 

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is this month and BPW NZ Past President Carolyn Savage is in New York having attended the BPW International Leadership Forum and CSW events. The goal of state parties at CSW is to come to 'agreed conclusions' which is a 10-plus page document outlining where the situation is for women and what states agree we need to do about it. NGO's, through our advocacy with the NZ government, can comment on the draft agreed conclusions and as I write this, BPW NZ has submitted notes to the first draft. We use the final agreed conclusions in our national advocacy and the topics covered are broad - concerning women's participation in all spheres of society and government action to address inequality.

We provided two oral submissions earlier this month, on the Family Proceedings (Dissolution for Family Violence) Amendment Bill and the Victims of Sexual Violence (Strengthening Legal Protections) Legislation Bill. We support each bill as improving court processes for victims of sexual and family violence and welcomed the opportunity to highlight to the Justice Committee the government commitments to CEDAW, the relationship between poverty and family violence, the need for policy action in the space of online harm, and the work of the 2018 Welfare Expert Advisory Group.

Mid-month, I attended an enlightening event held by the NZ Institute of Foreign Affairs with presenters Dr Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund and the Rt Hon Helen Clark on What next for sexual and reproductive health rights?  A highlight was a discussion on the 'anti-rights' movement and the continued need for cross-society resistance. I am of the mind that we need to be vigilant in the sexual and reproductive health rights space in New Zealand in light of what is happening to women's health rights in the United States. I note that we have a remit to our AGM addressing access to sexual and reproductive care for international students.

Last weekend I attended the Pan-Pacific and South-East Asia Women's Association's AGM on behalf of BPW NZ. Their guest speaker was Ambassador Kiri Azucena of the Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines. She gave a fascinating talk about pre-colonisation gender equality in the Philippines. Prior to Spanish rule in the sixteenth century, men and women across the Philippine archipelago held equal status on account of bilateral kinship. Philippine women were responsible in fiscal matters and they also owned property. They were also predominantly high-ranking babaylans, who were mystical women who wielded social and spiritual power in pre-colonial Philippine society before colonisation. "Babaylans listen to the community and lead through a deep understanding of the inter-connectedness of all life forms. To this day, many babaylans remain politically active in advocacy, activism and working for justice in their communities, especially in matters of land dispute, displacement, state violence, increased militarization and the plundering of their land."***

I am looking forward to hearing from clubs and members at our upcoming AGM and in the meanwhile enjoying the planning that is underway for the BPW International Congress as well as our own in-person Leadership Forum in October.

Ngā mihi nui,



*OCED definition "Gender mainstreaming refers to the integration of a gender equality perspective across all government action. It is a strategy that helps governments make better decisions to achieve gender equality including as they relate to policy and spending decisions. A commitment to gender mainstreaming is one of the most effective ways that governments can support and promote gender equality."

** This is the official UN theme for 2024 International Women's Day. Inspire Inclusion is a tagline created by a non-official organisation with the website that seeks donations without transparency.


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