BPW NZ President’s Message — Vicky Mee
2015 is drawing to a close and this is a good time to reflect on the highlights of the year for us as an advocacy organisation and the role BPW New Zealand has played in working for change.
On the international front we were ably represented at the Commission on the Status of Women in New York (CSW59) in March by Immediate Past President Carolyn Savage who was a D20 delegate and Vice President Issues Hellen Swales. Carolyn was asked to speak on the theme of Women and Water.
At CSW59 BPW New Zealand worked with BPW Africa to host a side event on child, early and forced marriage (CEFM). Hellen Swales spoke at this event and we know that there is growing recognition globally on the extent and impact of cultural practices around CEFM on continues to limit the capacity of young girls to develop skills, knowledge and the resources required to become autonomous contributing members of society. Indicators also show that the issue of CEFM is closely associated with cyclical poverty, low levels of education, poor health and abuse.
We are pleased that BPW New Zealand has again been asked to work with BPW Africa on this topic and host a joint side event. Hellen Swales plus Sally Smith, President of BPW Warkworth, will be attending CSW60 and discussing steps that can be taken to reduce the rate of CEFM. Sally, on behalf of BPW New Zealand, seconded BPW Africa’s resolution on Child Marriage at the BPW International Congress in Jeju in May 2014. It’s also good to work with women from other NZ organisations in New York and we particularly thank Pacific Women’s Watch (New Zealand) for their encouragement and support.
On a national level we brought many resolutions to our annual conference and it has been heartening to see the way that many have been picked up and worked on by clubs. BPW Kaitaia’s work supporting the One in 4 campaign to raise empathy for sexual abuse survivors has been inspirational and educational for us all. And now they plan to make the video in te reo and run community workshops! Congratulations. More examples spring to mind: including BPW Tamaki’s response to the Public Discussion Document; Strengthening New Zealand’s Legislative Response to Family Violence and BPW Franklin’s community workshop to help women be “Career Ready”.
Our federation proposed three resolutions to the National Council of Women (NCW NZ) conference in September (Long term strategy for elimination of violence against women; Animal abuse and family violence; Total ban on sale and supply of legal highs) and seconded the one on Insecure work. All passed and it is good to see the body of policy which women’s organisation throughout New Zealand can call on is being strengthened through the work of our members and their clubs.
At national level our Legislation Task Force led by Vice President Issues Hellen Swales put in submissions (both written and oral) using our policies to work for changes in legislation to empower women. We know from the feedback from select committees and the press and air time we have received on many issues that BPW New Zealand is seen as a force in this area particularly on employment and economic empowerment of women. The resolution on Zero Hour contracts was very timely. Thank you BPW Franklin!
For us as an organisation the gender pay gap and the gap in employment opportunities for women is a huge issue and we are pleased to see results from our collaborative work with other organisations. One initiative is the Pay Equity Coalition which operates in Auckland and Wellington and is bringing civil society and union strength to negotiations around pay equity principles. With many court cases looming on this issue and the implementation of the principles of the Equal Pay Act 1972 under question this is an ongoing issue where our voice is vital. Our own Red Bag Day events run by clubs around the country keep this issue to the front and will be very topical in February 2016.
Working to increase gender equality is the goal of the National Council of Women (NCW NZ) and BPW New Zealand is proud to be a member. We provided submissions into NCW’s gender equality white paper: Enabling Women’s Potential – the social, economic and ethical imperative. We were also involved in the discussion process on this paper which sets out a road map for equality in New Zealand.
Another great collaborative effort is our work with the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) which is working to change the employment landscape in New Zealand. An amazing initiative this year came from BPW Gisborne who launched the WEPs in their city and gained great traction in the press and with local companies discussing issues around women in the workplace. Two Gisborne CEOs committed to the principles and added to our national signatory list, Well done BPW Gisborne!
A vital part of our work is monitoring our government’s response to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the recommendations from the CEDAW committee. BPW New Zealand is contributing under the NCW umbrella and has the lead role in the work on women with disabilities and women’s employment. Work in these areas has been ongoing through this year with reports being collated by NCW early next year.
There’s a lot happening!
One of the most important steps for us to take as an advocacy organisation is to upskill our members so we have a strong voice and a voice in many communities. It was wonderful to have 44 members at our Leadership Forum in October with the theme being “Influencing Others”. Influencing is key if we are to promote ideas, persuade others to join us and advocate for change. The feedback on the forum has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s important we all take to heart the words of Dr Lena Madesin Phillips our founding president:
“An organisation is only as good as its membership.
Leaders may emerge with vision, creativity and direction but it is the quality of the supporting members, the width of the expertise they contribute, the depth of their interest and the determination they bring, that allows an organisation to fulfil its aims and become the powerhouse for the members’ own development”
We, BPW members, ARE activists both nationally and internationally and as we gain skills and confidence we can indeed fulfil our aims and gain further results.
Thank you all for the wonderful work you are doing. I have enjoyed going to meetings with many clubs, being part of the regional meetings, the Leadership Forum and our conference in Christchurch. I am always delighted to hear of the projects under way and feel the warmth and support you give each other.
Wishing you all a very happy Christmas and a great year to come,
President BPW NZ