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NZ reports on progress towards gender equity

June 9 2000

United Nation states must continue to set new goals and identify new measures for women's equality and empowerment, Alliance MP Dr Liz Gordon told a special session of the General Assembly in New York last night.

Dr Gordon was presenting New Zealand's statement on progress towards gender equality, development and peace since the Beijing Platform for Action Conference in 1995.

The Platform for Action is an international programme for improving the status of women.

Dr Gordon told the Special Session that since the Beijing conference there has been significant progress for women around the world.

"This is a good start to the new century and we intend that things will only get better from this point," she said.

"But it is equally clear we have along way to go."

Dr Gordon said that since 1995 New Zealand has continued to undergo significant social and economic changes.

"These changes have continued to impact on the status and development potential of women, especially those that face more than one form of disadvantage," she said.

"In New Zealand, particular attention is being given to achieving women's economic independence as a basis for empowering women in all areas where equality is yet to be achieved."

One such area is the gender pay gap, which appears to be widening for female graduates.

New Zealand working women earn around 80% of the average male wage, and although the pay gap has narrowed for the lowest paid, this relates to men's wages falling, rather than women's wages rising.

However, in one crucial area the gender pay gap has closed, Dr Gordon said.

"Our parliament has a woman Prime Minister, a woman Leader of the Opposition, 10 female Ministers and a total of 30% of our elected representatives are women, not to mention the Chief Justice," she said.

"Nevertheless, there remain in place policies which may appear equal but have unequal effects for women."

Dr Gordon said one such area is New Zealand's matrimonial property legislation, which has proved inadequate in recognising the unvalued contributions of women to a relationship.

"My government is currently addressing this issue, as well as that of ensuring equitable property settlements in the dissolution of de facto and same sex relationships," she said.

"The New Zealand government is also committed to EEO legislation that provides a framework which enables women to achieve their full potential as citizens, and discussions are underway in order to institute a new system of paid parental leave."

ends


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