Former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark is the new patron for the National Council of Women and she shared her stimulating thoughts and insights at the national conference in Auckland yesterday.
In an interview format with NCW chief executive Dr Gill Greer, Clark talked about violence against women, pay equity, leadership, abortion law reform, and sustainable development aid in the Asia-Pacific region.
Clark is a former administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The conference theme was He Toa Takitini – “strength in diversity”.
The Pacific Media Centre’s Del Abcede, of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), was on hand at Mount Wellington to get some pictures.
He Toa Takitini – ‘strength in diversity’
1. “All that separates whether of race, class, creed or sex, is inhuman and must be overcome.” – Kate Sheppard. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
2. Former Prime Minister Helen Clark … keynote speaker in interview. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
3. Former PM Helen Clark being interviewed by National Council of Women chief executive Dr Gill Greer. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
4. He Toa Takitini …. “Strength in diversity”. The theme of this year’s NCW national conference. Image: De; Abcede/PMC
5. Scenes from the NCW national conference. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
6. Scenes from the NCW national conference. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
7. Scenes from the NCW national conference. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
8. Scenes from the NCW national conference. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
9. Scenes from the NCW national conference. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
10. Vira Grace Paky of UN Youth Auckland at the NCW conference. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
11. Pacific Media Centre and WILPF’s Del Abcede at the NCW conference.
12. Former PM Helen Clark at the NCW conference. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
13. Helen Clark with Ruth Coombes of WILPF at the conference. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
14. Helen Clark with the PMC’s Del Abcede at the conference.
15. A cartoon message for men – “listen!” Image: Del Abcede/PMC
16. He Toa Takitini – “Strength in diversity”. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: Chelsea Manning visit exposes hypocrisy on left and right
The latest free speech debate – ignited by the National Party opposing Chelsea Manning coming to speak in New Zealand next month – illustrates that many on the political left and right are actually in broad agreement in their desire to severely limit free speech when it suits them.
All they differ on is who should be allowed the right to speak. In the case of the left, they generally want the likes of the recent Canadian alt-right speakers suppressed. The political right wants anti-war dissidents like Chelsea Manning kept out.
In this, immigration spokesperson Michael Woodhouse explains National’s objection: “She was convicted of a crime for which she has absolutely no remorse and not only that, she intends to profit from it by selling tickets to meetings where she talks about exactly what she did. I don’t think that’s appropriate and I think the associate minister should be declining it.”
In response, the Free Speech Coalition has condemned National, with spokesperson Chris Trotter quoted saying, “As a democracy, we have a right to be informed on the activities of our friends on the international stage. New Zealanders deserve a chance to hear her speak.” The report says, “He gave examples of other convicted criminals allowed into New Zealand – including Nelson Mandela”.
For more on all this, see Henry Cooke’s National wants Chelsea Manning barred from New Zealand. Woodhouse is also quoted saying, “I’m a firm believer in free speech. But I don’t believe there is a basis to say that her crimes are victimless.” Woodhouse also cites New Zealand’s relationship with the US, suggesting that this would be negatively affected.
For a very strong enunciation of National’s position, see Mike Hosking’s column this morning: Chelsea Manning is a crook, keep her out of NZ. For Hosking there’s an important principle at stake, which over-rides free speech considerations: “Manning would not be here if it wasn’t for her criminality. If it wasn’t for the stealing and leaking of classified paperwork that ran the risk of undermining American security, you would never have heard of her. Far less be in a position to consider buying tickets and lining her, and her promoters’, pockets.”
Hosking explains that there’s a tension between political freedoms and law and order: “So on a free speech platform Manning deserves a go, if it were not for the critical fact that she’s a criminal – and wants to make money from criminal activity. That is fundamentally, morally, and intellectually wrong. And not just in this specific case, but the precedent it sets. If crooks are free to create income from illegality, where do we draw that line? That’s a Pandora’s Box we do not want to open.”
Not everyone on the political right agrees with this approach, of course (even if they strongly disagree with Manning’s actions). For example, rightwing commentator Matthew Hooton (@MatthewHootonNZ) has tweeted: “Chelsea Manning is a thief, a traitor and a disgrace. And she should be welcome to come to New Zealand to speak, including at @AklCouncil premises. And @WoodhouseMP should be sacked as @NZNationalParty immigration spokesperson.”
Here’s Seymour’s main point: “The reason I have taken the position that she should be admitted is that ministerial discretion should depend on the public interest. It is in New Zealanders’ interest to be able to hear the views of important figures in recent global events and make up our own minds about them. It is not in New Zealand’s interests, as National’s Michael Woodhouse has suggested, to become a client state of the U.S., making decisions based on what Michael guesses will please them.”
Conservative commentator Karl du Fresne is also aghast, blogging today to ask: What on earth was Woodhouse thinking? He concludes: “Unfortunately the National Party has demonstrated that its support for free speech runs out the moment there’s a risk of upsetting an important ally. And this is the party that champions individual freedom? Pfft.”
In general, though, it seems the left has come out in support of Manning’s visit, and the right against. Therefore, it’s the mirror opposite of the ideological positions on the visit of the Canadian alt-right duo. For this reason, blogger Martyn Bradbury has expressed his frustration with both sides: “There isn’t just hypocrisy from the Right on this, watching those on the woke left demanding free speech now with Chelsea when barely a month ago they were screaming censorship shows the intellectual bankruptcy that has overcome so many in this debate” – see: If crypto-fascists can be allowed into the country – a human rights legend like Chelsea Manning should be allowed to as well.
Bradbury suggests that in trying to clampdown on reactionary voices, the left have simply set a precedent for the right to do the same about progressive voices: “when we deplatform, we open the door for the right to play the same game.”
Danyl Mclauchlan makes a similar point in his excellent column, Chelsea Manning and the limits of free speech absolutism. His conclusion is that in the wake of the latest free speech controversy, it “seems like a good time to point out to all the supporters of deplatforming and restricting public speech that the more power you give the state to determine who can and cannot speak, the more power you give to people like Michael Woodhouse, who was a minister just over a year ago, and may easily be one again.”
Mclauchlan’s opinion piece also seeks to explain how the National Party could so easily go from championing free speech values in recent months, to suddenly switching sides: “National is also – like most right-wing political parties the world over – a party that somehow believes in limited government and individual rights while simultaneously championing the expansion and empowerment of state security agencies, maximising their ability to spy on their own citizens while minimising any attempts to hold them accountable. Manning’s actions and pro-transparency activism are a direct attack on the legitimacy of the modern surveillance state that National were so deeply committed to in government. So Manning is an ideological enemy of the National Party.”
I’ve also written today about the problems of National being so “willing to clamp down on political freedoms based on the politics and ideologies of the individuals involved” – see my Newsroom column, Let Chelsea Manning speak.
And I also suggest that the more censorious left have opened the gates to Manning’s possible barring from New Zealand: “In fact, progressives and leftists might be suddenly re-thinking their stance now that one of their own is under threat of being banned from New Zealand. Unfortunately, the New Zealand left has been working hard to convince the public that it is okay to ban people based on their politics and backgrounds. In seeking to curtail some less than savoury individuals, the left have handed over to the right the ideological ammunition to then attempt to do the same to those that the left might favour speaking here.”
Therefore, it’s not surprising to see that the arguments many on the left are making in favour of Manning being allowed to visit rely on the idea that she is a special case, rather than arguing for political freedoms. For example, Green MP Golriz Ghahraman makes a strong case for the US dissident to be regarded as a hero, but her logic isn’t based on principles of political freedoms – see her opinion piece: Criticism over Chelsea Manning’s NZ visit is about condemning whistleblowers.
In reply to Ghahraman’s arguments, leftwing blogger Steven Cowan accuses her of hypocrisy: “Ghahraman clearly has a very flexible view of what freedom of speech is all about. While she continues to harbour an unhealthy urge to shut out opinions she can’t tolerate, she shouldn’t be surprised that she should be charged with being a hypocrite when she defends Chelsea Manning’s right to speak just because she happens to agree with Manning’s political views” – see: Golriz Ghahram: Guilty of hypocrisy.
Similarly, Gordon Campbell puts an excellent case for Manning to be allowed to speak in New Zealand, saying “if we let Manning into the country we might hear some intelligent, informed comment on the difficulties faced by the transgender community, and this would be of positive use to the deliberations of Parliament, as well as to the wider public” – see: National’s crusade against Chelsea Manning.
Ultimately, however, Campbell agrees with Woodhouse that we have to take each speaker on their individual merits, and that there’s good reason to treat the alt-right Canadians differently to Manning. Where Woodhouse and Campbell disagree is that this difference should favour the free speech rights of Manning rather than Southern and Molyneux: “Yup, there’s a difference alright. Southern and Molyneux specialise in speech and actions aimed at inciting fear and hostility against vulnerable minorities. By contrast, Manning leaked 700,000 documents that exposed the means via which the US government secretly practiced violence against vulnerable minorities around the world.”
This difference is also emphasised by Greg Presland blogging at The Standard, saying that Manning “is very different to Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux. She is not known for attacks on ethnic groups. She does not go around manufacturing dissent for Youtube clicks or engaging in hate speech. She has not taken parts in efforts to sabotage efforts to save refugees from drowning” – see: Let Chelsea Manning speak.
Newstalk ZB’s Kate Hawkesby has an excellent response to all of this: “Isn’t this just both sides arguing against what doesn’t suit their own political leaning? I don’t see how you can cherry pick it. Otherwise it’s conditional free speech only, based on what we deem fair or not fair, based on our own political viewpoint – which suddenly doesn’t sound that free at all. You either have free speech or you don’t” – see: On Chelsea Manning NZ’s visit: You can’t cherry pick free speech.
Finally, in terms of deciding free speech based on the relative merits of various speakers, some on the political left are still arguing that suppressing Southern and Molyneux was justified but banning Don Brash was not. Liam Hehir has responded with a very thoughtful point-by-point rebuttal of such arguments – see: Is Don Brash really different from those Canadians?
Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: Jacinda Ardern’s strike for gender equality
In terms of the struggle for gender equality, the symbolism of the birth of Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford is impossible to ignore, and is rightly being celebrated around the world.
Possibly the most important article about the significance of Ardern having a child while prime minister was published in the Hindustan Times – see: Jacinda Ardern to Benazir Bhutto: A tale of two pregnancies in power. As the title suggests, the article emphasises the difference between Ardern’s experience and that of Pakistan’s prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who gave birth to daughter Bakhtawar in 1990 while in office.
The contrast is stunning and worth quoting at length: “It was all a far cry from 1990, when Bhutto, the first woman to head a democratic government in a Muslim-majority nation, told almost no-one she was pregnant until Bakhtawar was born on January 25. ‘None of us in the cabinet virtually knew that this prime minister was about to deliver a baby,’ Javed Jabbar, a member of her cabinet, told the BBC recently. ‘And then lo-and-behold suddenly we learn that she has not only gone and delivered democracy she’s also delivered a baby.’ Opposition leader Syeda Abida Hussain had called Bhutto ‘greedy’ for wanting to have ‘motherhood, domesticity, glamour, and whole responsibility’ rather than make sacrifices for her country.”
The article recounts how the Pakistani prime minister feared “she was in danger of being overthrown” and had to go “incognito to a Karachi hospital, underwent a Caesarean section, then returned to work.” According to Bhutto, “The next day I was back on the job, reading government papers and signing government files”.
Bhutto was assassinated in 2007, but had she lived “Thursday would have been her birthday.”
It would be a mistake to see the contrast between Bhutto and Ardern’s experience as simply being down to cultural and national differences between New Zealand and Pakistan. After all, western developed countries haven’t produced many female heads of government since 1990, and it’s remarkable that Ardern is only the first to give birth while in office.
Ex-prime minister Helen Clark, writes in the British Guardian: “What lessons are there in this for our world? In my view, New Zealand is showing that no doors are closed to women, that having a baby while being prime minister can be managed, and that it’s acceptable for male partners to be full-time carers. This is very positive role modelling for the empowerment of women and for gender equality” – see: Jacinda Ardern shows that no doors are closed to women.
On Ardern being unmarried, Clark says “Conventional wisdom may have said that this combination of factors would not have been helpful to a political career at the highest level. Fortunately, that has proved to be wrong. Ardern is a remarkable woman who crashes through glass ceilings with apparent ease.”
According to Duff, the importance of this historic event is that “It normalises powerful women and nurturing, caring men. It decimates outdated ideals of where a mother ‘should’ be – at home, with the children, while dad earns the money.”
She says the country has mostly embraced the PM’s pregnancy: “New Zealand’s reaction to its Prime Minister’s pregnancy has basically been a collective ‘Sweet as’. As a country, we’re mostly cool with this, which suggests we’re well on our way to true equality.”
National Party blogger David Farrar came up with one of the best lines on the significance of it all, saying, That’s one small step for a woman, one giant leap for womenkind. He stated: “There is of course nothing unusual at all about a woman giving birth, but for many it is quite monumental to see that being pregnant and giving birth is not incompatible with the highest office in the land. It is motivational and aspirational.
Similarly, veteran political journalist John Armstrong reflected on the significance, declaring: “There are moments in a country’s history which transcend the ordinary; moments when the stars are in alignment with one another to produce the truly extraordinary. The birth of the Prime Minister’s first child has been such a moment” – see: There are moments in a country’s history which transcend the ordinary.
Armstrong explains Ardern’s influence: “Ardern is the very embodiment of how a modern society seeks to unshackle women in order to harvest their potential contribution to the greater good to the maximum possible. It is impossible to measure Ardern’s influence as a role model. But it will already have been vast. Yet, she is incurably modest about it all. And she does not seek to exploit her success and the consequent high regard in which she is held to ram a message about gender equality down people’s throats.”
Positivity about the birth, and about the breaking down of barriers, has been far from partisan according to Armstrong: “No matter one’s political leanings, it was near impossible not to succumb to the euphoria. The symptoms of Babymania were easy to spot.”
Newspaper editorials also reflected on what Neve Gayford’s birth said about the modern liberal nature of New Zealand. For example, The Press said that “In an unmarried Prime Minister who gets to take maternity leave, we could see the progressive, tolerant, open-minded nation we like to think we are” – see: Jacinda’s baby represents hope, humility and the best of our values.
Of course, some have questioned how progressive the nation really is and whether we should read too much into the birth. For example, Heather du Plessis-Allan reminded us that we didn’t actually vote a pregnant woman into office, and it was really down to Winston Peters giving the nod to Ardern instead of Bill English. She argues that, although the nation loves to bask in the reputation of being socially progressive, there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary – see: It’s not hip to be square.
Coming from a completely different point of view, leftwing blogger Steven Cowan wonders if Labour Party types are simply trying to make political capital about how great it is for elite women in this country, while ignoring the struggles of most women. He says, “It is trickle down feminism, the kind of feminism that neoliberalism can embrace” – see: Jacinda Ardern and the feminism of the one percent.
Ardern has been at pains to acknowledge that not all women or families have the privileges that will allow her to lead the nation while being a new mother. And David Farrar elaborates on this in his blog post:
“Jacinda is fortunate that she has the support of not just her partner who will be primary caregiver, but also her parents. On top of that she has a staff of 25, VIP Transport, the DPS etc who will all be supporting her in her role as PM and mother, so she can do both. Her baby and partner/support persons will be transported around NZ with her. That is at it should be, but not every mother will have that support. So other parents shouldn’t feel pressured that they are lacking something if they are not back at work so soon.”
And these issues are fuelling debate around the world. For instance, in the UK, Victoria Smith has written in the Independent newspaper that, as much as we should celebrate what New Zealand’s prime minister has achieved, there is a danger in assuming – or pressuring – every woman to be able to do the same thing when it’s simply not possible for them – see: Why you shouldn’t uphold Jacinda Ardern as proof that working mothers can ‘have it all’. Smith worries that other mothers who are not working will now be asked: “So what’s your excuse?”.
Her main point is this: “I’m delighted at the example Ardern sets, and look forward to her continuing to demonstrate that pregnancy, motherhood and care work can and should be embedded in political life. The more we see mothers as full participants in public discourse and social change, the better. It’s important, though, to be clear about realities for other women in the here and now. Being shown what can be possible is not the same as being offered it. Pregnancy and motherhood should not exclude us from career success, but the truth is, they do.”
Fiji might see its first woman prime minister after this year’s general election, predicts New Zealand-based political sociologist, Professor Steven Ratuva.
Following in the tracks of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Prof Ratuva believes politics in Fiji was drifting away from the old patriarch-type where men led in the political arena.
“Politics is shifting away from the old patriarch-type to the paradigm-shifting women who have been able to break through the glass ceiling like Jacinda Ardern,” he said.
Prof Ratuva said for Fiji’s upcoming general election, women such as National Federation Party’s Lenora Qereqeretabua, Social Democratic Liberal Party’s Lynda Tabuya and Tanya Waqanika, were strong provisional candidates.
“They are all young, ambitious and smart and they represent the new generation of women politicians who will no doubt become dominant voices in Fijian politics.
He said the three women in particular had become dominant voices in the country.
“Interestingly, Lynda Tabuya, Lenora Qereqeretabua and Tanya Waqanika are all from Kadavu Island where I also come from and they bring with them the critical and intelligent voices from the south of Fiji, which is still one of the least developed parts of the country in terms of infrastructure such as roads.”
Prof Ratuva said the lead-up to the polls would be interesting with many parties yet to announce their women candidates.
‘Anything possible’ Last night, Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre co-ordinator Shamima Ali said with the shift in the ideologies of the public, anything in Fijian politics was possible, including the election of a woman PM.
Ms Ali said she’d love to see a woman taking charge of the country.
She believes the country needs to get away from its traditional thinking and support women candidates who think outside the box and address pressing issues.
Ms Ali said Fijians needed to look at things realistically, and support and young intelligent women to garner for a seat in Parliament.
Headline: Step up efforts to support Indonesian women’s rights plea to Jakarta
By Sheany in Jakarta
The National Commission on Violence Against Women, or Komnas Perempuan, has called on the government to do more to protect women’s rights, particularly by enacting a long-overdue bill on the elimination of sexual violence.
The commission also said that current response to and handling of cases of violence against women in Indonesia was still too slow.
“There are still a number of issues that the government must pay attention to, in order to make sure that women’s rights in Indonesia are protected,” Komnas Perempuan chairwoman Azriana told reporters in Jakarta.
Komnas Perempuan’s annual report revealed that there were nearly 350,000 cases of violence against women in 2017 – a 25 percent increase from the previous year.
The report, which was published a day before International Women’s Day, also criticised the government for its slow prevention and handling mechanisms.
“We are not moving forward with our justice system … There are even no educational efforts to minimise the harmful effect of [cultural] norms that can lead to sexual violence,” Azriana said.
In Indonesia, cases of sexual violence are handled in accordance with the criminal code, the Law on the Elimination of Domestic Violence, the Law on Child Protection and the Law on Human Trafficking.
Legal vacuum These laws, however, do not cover all types violence, leaving its victims in legal vacuum.
“Many women who are no longer children [in the eyes of the law] are also victims of sexual violence, but they are not protected. The types of violence also evolve,” Azriana said.
For example, femicide – the killing of a woman or girl on account of her gender – is not traditionally categorised as sexual violence.
“This is one of the reasons why the bill on the elimination of sexual violence must be passed quickly,” Azriana said, adding that Komnas Perempuan and several other organisations have suggested the inclusion of several other types of sexual violence, which are not yet recognised by the law, leaving many victims helpless.
Headline: Indonesian protesters call for end to violence against women in Yogya
By Rizki Halim in Yogyakarta
Dozens of women held a rally at the Zero Kilometre point in Indonesia’s Central Java city of Yogyakarta to commemorate International Women’s Day yesterday.
Taking up the spirit of feminism, the women, who came from a number of different groups, took up issues related to gender equality in Indonesia.
Action coordinator Adinda Aurellia said that Indonesian women hope that through the commemoration of IWD they could demand the rights that they should be afforded.
“We are voicing many demands at this year’s event in the framework of commemorating International Women’s Day, because there are in fact still many regulations in force that repress women,” said Aurellia.
The many cases of violence that still occur against women was also one of the topics taken up at the action.
This is bearing in mind that violence against women is an issue that to this day is still widespread because of the prevalent stereotypes about women in society that still see them as weak.
Through the rally on Thursday, the protesters hope that gender equality can truly be realised in Indonesia and that discriminative behaviour against women will no longer occur.
Headline: Indonesia losing only female top justice amid gender rights worries
By Rieka Rahadiana and Yudith Ho in Jakarta
Indonesia is set to lose its first and only female constitutional justice, whose term is up next year, potentially dealing a blow to women’s rights in a country where they’re being challenged in the face of growing religious conservatism.
Maria Farida Indrati will end her second and final term in about eight months, leaving the nine-member board of justices entirely male on one of the two highest courts in the country — where cases on discrimination, domestic violence, early-age marriage and female political participation continually arise.
The constitutional court differs from the supreme court, where the top judges are all male and which determines final appeal in legal matters not deemed to be constitutional.
“The point of view I bring to the table is different from what my male colleagues present,” the 68-year-old judge told Bloomberg in an interview.
It’s not a certainty that Indrati’s replacement, who likely will be chosen by President Joko Widodo from a list of three candidates picked by a committee, will be male.
While her successor won’t be known for several months or even until after her departure, Indrati said there are several qualified women to consider. She herself was chosen by former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2008 after decades of lecturing in law at the University of Indonesia and assisting lawmakers in drafting legislation.
In Indonesia, female law students prefer a career outside the courtroom rather than in it because “women don’t like to be seen as argumentative or to debate,” said Indrati, who plans to return to teaching full time when her term finishes. Quotas aren’t the solution to increasing women’s participation in public life, including on the bench, she said.
‘Be unafraid’ “It is important that women take this role and be unafraid to take this role,” said the judge, who suffered from polio as a child and walks with a limp.
Although when she was young she aspired to be a piano teacher, Indrati listened to the advice of her father, a journalist and former teacher who had wanted to complete his unfinished law degree.
He encouraged his daughter to study to become a law professor instead, according to her official biography.
When the constitutional court in 2015 declined a judicial review to raise the decades-old minimum legal marital age for women from currently 16 years old to 18, Indrati was the only justice with a dissenting opinion.
Raising the marriage age to 18 would allow girls more of a chance to secure their futures, Indrati said. The challenge was brought by a group promoting women’s health. Activists are again appealing, seeking to have the case heard again.
Last week, Indrati cast a decisive vote in the court’s decision rejecting by 5-4 a petition by conservative academics seeking to deem extramarital and gay sex as crimes punishable by prison terms.
She has also ruled in favour of other gender and minority-related cases such as pornography and blasphemy.
More difficulties “It’s not always the case where the existence of a female justice means the law will take the side of women,” said Indri Suparno, a commissioner at the National Commission on Violence Against Women. “But the absence will give more difficulties to women to become more progressive.”
Southeast Asia’s biggest economy is considered a model of moderate Islam.
The president, known as Jokowi, has put more women into senior roles compared with other Muslim-majority countries — a record nine of 34 cabinet ministers, the most among the world’s most populous countries.
High profile officials include Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi — a first in the country’s history — and Maritime and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti. Rosmaya Hadi became Bank Indonesia’s only female deputy governor this year.
The country also imposes gender quotas for political party candidates put forward for public office.
In 2016, Jokowi launched the first nationwide survey on violence against women and children. However, he’s been silent on calls from human rights groups to end virginity tests for women applying to the military and the police.
Polygamy app Worries over women’s rights have increased as attempts to hamper equality have been made more openly. A Tinder-like app, AyoPoligami, or Let’s Do Polygamy, and a seminar called “The Quickest Way of Getting Four Wives” have sparked controversy.
Indonesia allows Muslim men to take up to four wives if granted by a court and approved by the first wife.
Some 26 out of 153 countries have women as chief justices, or 17 percent, according to a World Bank report in 2016 called “Women, Business and The Law.”
Outside court It’s possible that the challenge to the law legalising the age of marriage at 16 may be heard again while Indrati is still on the bench.
Campaigners for women’s rights say that women who marry young will miss out on what’s being called a demographic bonus by 2030 — when the numbers of working-age people are greater than the numbers of elderly — by not being able to further their educations and embark on careers.
The government wants to improve its professional workforce, but allowing women to marry at 16 means they likely will have to stay home and raise families instead of being able to participate, said Zumrotin Susilo, chairwoman of the Women’s Health Foundation, who was involved in the first appeal of the marriage law.
A Central Statistics Agency census in 2010 found 6.7 million out of 78 million women age 15 to 64 hold a bachelor’s degree, or 8.5 percent. About 500,000 women have postgraduate degrees.
“Women have to fight for the presence of female justices and build strong communications and perspective at the constitutional court,” said Suparno of the women commission.
Headline: Women must be at centre of global climate solutions, says Fiji minister
Minister Mereseini Vuniwaqa … “important to emphasise the traditional roles and functions women in the Pacific play”. Image: Mereoni Mili/Wansolwara
By Mereoni Mili in Bonn, Germany
It is important that women and girls remain in the centre of climate solutions.
These were the words of Fiji’s Minister of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Mereseini Vuniwaqa during the Gender Day event at COP23 in Bonn, Germany, this week.
She said it was important to have specific objectives for women in any economic or investment programme responding to climate change whether it involved mitigation, adaptation or resilience.
“If we understand the special place women have in our communities and act accordingly we would create strong programmes, have more effective responses, build better and resilient communities”, she said.
She added that climate change was harsh for women largely because women were over-represented among the world and were exposed to these dangers.
“Women typically are critical to keeping communities together, they care for the children, and they maintain traditions and give stability to villages”, she said
Vuniwaqa said talanoa dialogue on the topic of economic case for gender responsive climate action would highlight the compelling economic reasons why governments were seeking and investors were funding climate policy.
Highlighting gender It would also highlight actions that had gender as a core element.
Vuniwaqa reminded delegates that they needed to put women and girls at the centre of all climate efforts in order to succeed.
The Fijian Presidency at COP23 has emphasised the importance of equitable involvement of women in sustainable development and the implementation of climate policy, including the Gender Action Plan.
The Gender Action Plan had been finalised to recognise the role of women in climate action.
Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa, Flame Mata’fa, said that full participation and mainstreaming of gender issues was important and it was a step the Samoa government had taken.
“It is important to emphasise the traditional roles and functions women in the Pacific play so that people come to a common understanding and objectives,” she said.
Mereoni Mili is a student journalist on Wansolwara newspaper at the University of the South Pacific. She won a scholarship to attend COP23.