IWD 2024 - the UNA-NZ Wellington event

On Wednesday 6 March, two days before International Women’s Day, the Wellington Branch of the United Nations Association of New Zealand (UNA-NZ) organised a panel discussion on the UN IWD theme of “Count her in: Invest in women. Accelerate progress.” The panel consisted of Suzanne Manning, NCWNZ President, Natasha Jolly (Former UN worker and women’s rights researcher) and Joy Dunsheath (UNA-NZ).UNA-NZ logo

Suzanne talked about the importance of allies to accelerate progress towards gender equality. Discrimination and inequality occur when some groups hold power to serve their own needs; those groups need to recognise the problem and share the power. This means we need all genders to work together as allies for gender equality. Suffrage in 1893 would not have been achieved if male allies had not voted in favour of the Bill. Suzanne then shared results from the 2023 Gender Attitudes Survey which showed the difference in perspectives between women and men on how well we are doing on achieving gender equality in Aotearoa New Zealand. To accelerate progress, we need men to acknowledge the true extent of the problem. She also shared some comments on the very last report the World Bank released. For the first time, they considered violence against women and access to childcare to determine the gender pay gap. The result is striking: the gender pay gap is even worse when we consider this feature.

Natasha Jolly shared some of her work with a presentation entitled “Gender, Justice, Reconciliation, Healing,” based in her research area of peacemaking criminology, relational sociology and international human rights law. For her, the UN gives a framework and a common language to talk about issues and how gender perspectives must be taken into account.

Joy Dunsheath from UNA-NZ, World Federation of UNA, and long-standing representative to NCWNZ, summarised the 2021 World Bank Gender Equality report. She shared a range of figures that showed just how far we have to go before there is global gender equality, and why accelerating progress is so important. For instance, on average, women have only 75% of the rights of men; and in Iran, the legal age to get married is 9 years old. She also warned about the global backlash against women’s rights.

The audience, both in the room and online, were engaged and had many comments and questions.

One question was around how to engage the younger generation and allies in our organisations. Suzanne outlined some of the initiatives we have taken within NCWNZ, including diversifying the way we operate so that those who are more "cause-driven" can join an Action Hub only, and those who prefer the local socialising and action join a Branch. She also spoke about being proactive in seeking diverse candidates for the Board and creation of a Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Accessibility committee. Natasha also shared her point of view as an immigrant New Zealander, stressing the importance of representation and addressing multiculturalism – all of which takes time.

The question of the divergence of feminist struggles around the world was also raised. Some countries are far more advanced than others in terms of gender equality, but that doesn't mean that for these "model" states, equality has been achieved and there's nothing left to do. This is particularly true of New Zealand, which has long been seen as a forerunner and model country in terms of gender equality. However, as the latest Gender Attitudes survey illustrates, there is still much to be done in the fight against sexism, even in New Zealand.

UNA-NZ IWD 2024 event
Photo courtesy of Pat Metham, UNA-NZ, featuring: (left-right) Martine Udahemuka (UNA-NZ Wellington President), Joy Dunsheath, Suzanne Manning, Natasha Jolly.


To read more articles from The Circular (March-April 2024) issue 646, click on the tag below.
Tag for Issue 646


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