Following 12 grass roots workshops throughout the country in centres from Kaitaia in the far north of the North Island to Invercargill the south of the South Island along with focus groups for refugee and migrant women we are able to report as follows:
Although there have been improvements for New Zealand women since 1995 the same issues identified then as being of prime importance have not changed. They continue to be :
(1) protecting and promoting the human rights of women and the girl child
(2) eradicating the persistent and increasing burden of poverty on women
(3) removing the obstacles to women’s full participation in public life and decision-making at all levels
(4) eliminating of all forms of violence against women
(5) ensuring equal access for girl children and women to education and health services
(6) promoting economic autonomy for women and ensuring their access to productive resources
Gains since Beijing include:
• women are now in positions of power in parliament and n non-traditional roles – currently women hold the positions of Governor General, Prime Minister, Attorney General and Chief Justice
• women have better access to education and greater numbers have a tertiary qualification
• health screening programmes, better information, more care for the aged and better provision for women and girls with disabilities have improved health outcomes
• the Domestic Violence Act has brought improved police responses and easier access to protection orders
• more women are in paid employment, have managerial positions and armed services positions
• many women are starting businesses
Main Legislative and Policy-Making Achievements:
Landmarks achieved for New Zealand women include:
• Paid parental leave scheme introduced and extended
• Progress in integration of women into the armed forces
• Requirement of gender analysis and a gender implications statement in papers submitted to the Cabinet Social Development Committee
• Implementation of Te Rito: New Zealand Family Violence Prevention Strategy
• Legislative changes: the introduction of the Human Rights Amendment Act 2001, the replacement of the Employment Contracts Act 1991 with the Employment Relations Act 2000, the amendment of the Matrimonial Property Act 1976, and the Prostitution Reform Act 2003.
In April – May 2004 the same NGO Questionnaire “How Are We Doing?” that was used as a pilot survey through the Association of Presbyterian Women of Aotearoa New Zealand in 1999 was used again to achieve a wider sampling as a measure for progress. Responses to the Questionnaire revealed :
• 52 percent have less money to spend compared to 61 percent in 1999
• over 60 percent of women were unable to save for retirement compared to 47 percent in 1999
• increasing impoverishment was still a prime concern
• most women were now familiar with the contract agreement they were working under
• some gains – some “going back”, but overall not much progress for a large proportion of women
Outstanding issues identified were discrimination faced by particular groups such as Maori and Pacific women, migrants and disabled women; uncertain impacts of government funding; stereotyping; student loan debt greater for women who are lower paid than men; low numbers of women in public office; and the gender pay gap. High housing rentals continued to be a barrier for women and their families, little progress had been made on measuring gender-based poverty and women’s access to credit was still difficult. The gap between rich and poor remained persistent – possibly greater. Disturbing inequalities between women are a reality. Some have no “safety nets”. Special measures are needed to close the gaps for women at the lowest socio-economic levels compared to those who are relatively safe in their economic sustainability.
• Reduction of the gender pay gap
• Valuing women’s unremunerated work
• Overcoming cultural barriers especially in the workplace
• Closing the gap between rich and poor Greater availability of quality childcare
• Overcoming violence in New Zealand society for women and girls especially domestic violence and
• sexual abuse
• Appointment of more women to higher positions both government and community
• Making state school education “free”
• Easing the burden of student loan debt, which impacts more on women than men
The workshops and questionnaire achieved a higher level of input from women at grass roots level than was possible in 1995 and 1999..
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs Action Plan for New Zealand Women launched on 8 March 2004 to coincide with International Women’s Day is a whole-of-government plan to improve the status of women through the three key inter-related areas of economic sustainability, work-life balance and well-being.
Its vision requires:
• equitable access to resources and opportunities
• opportunity to choose and pursue a life path
• full and active participation in society
• adequate resources and support
• freedom from discrimination
• valuing women’s contribution to society
The Action Plan will require much government will and considerable extra resources to achieve its vision.
• NGOs must be encouraged to lobby vigorously to ensure the vision of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs Action Plan for New Zealand Women can be realised
• The Ministry of Women’s Affairs must strive to raise its profile and sharing of information especially in southern centres
• Special measures to close the gender pay gap should be introduced at all levels
• Government should take measures to value unremunerated work
• There should be greater government support for ethnic and refugee women and their families
• Government should make resources available to ensure continuing public education and awareness raising of its commitments under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the strategic objectives of the Beijing Platform for Action
Gaining full status for New Zealand women will be through a change in thinking towards women’s equal participation, building of more equitable cultural perceptions and a tremendous effort of public education, rather than by legislation.
Pacific Women’s Watch (New Zealand) Inc.