In Memoriam: Jane Prichard

Jane Prichard, image supplied by Christine KingIt is with great sadness that I write to inform you that Elizabeth Jane Prichard MA, CNZM, QSO, died on 2 December 2023. I knew Jane from the 1980s, and when I came back from Qatar in 2012 Jane asked me to join her in Pacific Women's Watch New Zealand (PWW-NZ). She gave me the role of PWW-NZ representative to the National Council of Women of New Zealand (NCWNZ) Auckland branch, and she also made sure I went to New York to the United Nations (UN) meetings. It has been my honour and privilege to work with Jane for the last ten years and previously. Jane was a woman of vision and ambition. Her ambition was for all women and especially that the most marginalised could live fulfilled and safe lives.

Jane’s vision grows out of her early involvement with the Federation of University Women (now Graduate Women) at the time when the UN Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was being discussed around the world. Jane saw CEDAW as a key treaty and was part of discussion and education groups through the 1980 and 90s.

Jane worked at Department of External Affairs working among other things with United Nations documents often providing information to politicians and answering queries related to UN issues. This knowledge came into its own years later when Jane founded the ICW-CIF Asia-Pacific Regional Council (APRC) and took up the national APW president role and subsequent roles. Jane saw CEDAW as a highly significant convention that Aotearoa NZ had signed up to for which we needed to hold government to account. Jane was responsible for organising the Pacific Women's Watch New Zealand (PWW-NZ) in 2001, and under her leadership by 2010 the PWW-NZ gained UN ECOSOC status to attend UN events. Every four years PWW-NZ submitted its alternative CEDAW report written or over seen by Jane. She attended CEDAW hearings in Geneva and when she was unable to go herself made sure someone else did. She encouraged me to promote CEDAW to Auckland Council to ensure they consider all women and girls in all aspects of council actions. After many years of active lobbying, Jane worked together with Shakti Refuge to persuade the New Zealand Parliament in 2018 to pass the Marriage (Court Consent to Marriage of Minors) Amendment Bill. This law aims to prevent forced marriages, of mostly girls aged 16 and 17 and considered minors by the state, by changing the requirement of consent from parents to a Family Court judge.

in 1993 Jane was elected president for the national Executive of the Association of Presbyterian Women (APW). APW applied for and received observer status for the 1995 4th UN World Women’s Conference in Beijing. Jane along with her friend Wilma Harland represented APW at the Beijing conference. This had a profound influence on Jane. At the Beijing conference she became aware of real gaps in women’s networks especially around the Pacific. As a result, she established “Bridgebuilders Network” linking Presbyterian and associated church women throughout the Pacific Basin. Regular meetings and consultations were held in Aotearoa NZ, around the Pacific and in South Africa. Every March large numbers (as many as 8000) women descend on New York and the UN for the annual conference hosted by the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Jane attended CSW every year from 1997 until 2011.

Jane had been involved in the NCWNZ Auckland Branch since 1990, and she was on the NCWNZ Board from 1996 and National Vice President from 1998-2002.  Her NCWNZ work grew out of her involvement with Federation of University Women (now Graduate Women) in the1980s. In 2003 she joined theNCWNZ's parent organisation, the International Council of Women (ICW-CIF), as a Standing Committee Convenor, Board member and then Vice President. She remained an Advisor and member of the ICW Committee of Honour. NCWNZ had been a big part of Jane’s life, and it was very fitting that at the recent Suffrage Day celebrations – 130 years of suffrage in Aotearoa NZ - NCWNZ presented Jane with a Life membership. Jane served NCWNZ at all levels – local, national and international. 

Jane was awarded a QSO in 2004 and CNZM in 2019 for services to women. Her memoir, Creating Space – An Experience of Gender, was published in March 2023.  

Jane said she preferred not take leadership roles. That is until she was challenged and told it was her turn to lead - “no” was not an option. Jane made incredible connections around the world and assisted groups with developing programmes and implementing actions. From her memoir, I share an important statement for us all to remember going forward in justice work: "Equality and full human rights can only be attained when the hopes and aspirations of those at the edges of society are realised."


To read more articles from The Circular (January-February 2024) issue 645, click on the tag below.
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