New Zealand treats women badly
New Zealand is no Saudi Arabia, women in New Zealand can drive and we were the first in the world to give women the vote. However, despite having had two female Prime Ministers and a history of women achieving high office, we are hardly a society that can really celebrate true gender equity.
One of the reasons I decided not to stand as a candidate again was to give some of our talented women a better chance of success. New Zealand does not provide a level playing field in terms of gender and the one of the best ways of achieving that is ensuring that we have have more female legislators. So many excellent bills that would have helped women achieve greater equity and opportunities have been vetoed and voted down because our New Zealand Parliament is predominately male. While I consider myself a feminist, women would be more effective advocates for themselves.
Female representation at local, regional and central government level has not improved for the last twenty years and, under a National Government, it has got worse. We now have over twice as many men in Parliament than women (69/31 currently, 66/34 in 2008). I am really pleased that the Green Party's current list will help address that imbalance, especially if we can get a strong vote. Twelve of our top twenty are women, and seven of the top ten.
If a Labour/Green Government is elected in September then the many appalling inequities can finally be properly addressed:
- More useful data and research could be done to establish the extent of early onset menstruation. It appears more girls are having their first period while still at primary school. This is difficult enough for girls to deal with at such an early age, but many schools are ill-prepared as well. There also needs to be more research on what is causing this trend.
- When half our population is female, and managing periods is a fact of life for them, having sanitary products priced prohibitively for many is sexist and unnecessary. Stories of high school students resorting to using gym socks and teachers providing pads with their own money for students are real concerns.
- Even with the success of Kristine Bartlett's legal action to end the pay discrimination for aged care workers, the Government has made roadblocks for other female dominated jobs to receive equitable pay. The care sector is only one of many that have been poorly treated for decades and school support staff have also been battling unsuccessfully for the same recognition.
- Low pay places immense pressure on women who are the majority of sole parents (around 30% of our children are in sole parent families). The stories about the difficulties of being a sole mother abound and the fact that many survive at all says more about their resilience then the system. Of course those who struggle are judged by many, who unfairly blame them for their circumstances.
- Despite 60% of those with post graduate qualifications or honour degrees are women, most earn less than than men and are poorly represented in leadership roles.
- We still treat rape victims appallingly and most rapes go unreported because of this. The most recent example of this callous reality was a rape victim having her benefit cut because she refused to provide the name of the rapist who fathered her child. ACC support for rape victims has been mixed and often inadequate.
- Rape Crisis centres have struggled under this government, many have suffered cuts despite increases in demand. Recent funding increases are welcomed but still inadequate.
- Male dominated New Zealand society does not see parenting as a valuable role and there is a perception that women can only be really productive when in paid employment. This has meant that beneficiaries are expected to return to the workforce when their child is three years old but at the same time there has been inadequate funding for early childhood education.
- Many early childhood education centres struggle to provide quality education and ERO has identified serious shortcomings in the majority. In 2012 only two-fifths had given any thought to how their curriculum would support Maori children and only one-fifth had given any regard to Pasifika children. Only 50% of early childhood teachers in a centre need to be qualified and the Government will only fund up to 80% of staff to be fully qualified.
- In many communities the support for mothers is being cut back as DHBs and communities struggle to manage within inadequate funding. Maternity centres in rural areas are closing, risking the lives and welfare of young mothers and their babies.
While Invercargill may be considered by some to be a bastion of conservatism, more new women were elected to the city council than men and all the party candidates for the electorate are female. The Deep South is leading the way.
Let the election of 2017 be one for women and for real fairness and equity. I hope a few other men will feel able to relinquish some of their power to allow this to happen. Do it for your daughters and granddaughters.