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Christchurch Pacific Women's Fono

Christchurch Pacific Women's Fono

The Labour-led government wants to ensure that Pacific women and their families are equipped to play their part in our high income, knowledge-based economy of the future.

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Taloha ni, Talofa lava, Malo e lelei, Fakaalofa lahi atu, Ni sa bula vinaka, Namaste, Kia orana koutou katoatoa, Ia Orana, Gud de tru olgeta, Talofa, Kia ora tatau and Warm Pacific Greetings to you all this afternoon.

Warm greetings to my colleague, Commerce Minister and MP for Christchurch East Honourable Lianne Dalziel.

Welcome to all our guests here today and I would particularly like to acknowledge:

.Tufuga Lagatule for her hard work and leadership in arranging today's fono; and
.Sam Uta'i, from PACIFICA Women who will also be speaking today

I am humbled and honoured to be here today as a Pacific woman, and a proud New Zealander. It is heartening to be among Pacific women who have so much potential.

Today we will hear about the future. An aspirational future that awaits our Pacific communities and our Pacific women.

Our Pacific people are heading towards an era of increased economic self sufficiency, built on a spirit of innovation and enthusiasm.

Most of all, we have come together to celebrate the potential that lies within our people and communities, to develop leadership potential and innovative business enterprise.

This fono provides a platform for sharing our achievements and leadership innovations in the Pacific sector, particularly for Pacific women. This is an opportunity to share and reinforce an understanding of issues women face and to promote effective dialogue and exchange of views for the future. The linkages and relationships that we women are so good at developing are crucial to improving women's leadership nationally and in the wider Pacific region.

The Pacific Women's Economic Development Plan and the activities contained within the plan aim to increase the economic prosperity of our Pacific women.

Our Pacific women are the backbone of our Pacific communities. Our communities and families are built on the courage, determination and wisdom of Pacific women.

I am proud to be the first Pacific woman in the New Zealand Parliament, and now the first Pacific Island woman Minister of Pacific Island Affairs. This has provided me with the opportunity and honour to work alongside the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs and a group of highly talented Pacific women leaders in bringing the Pacific Women's Economic Development Plan to fruition.

Leadership brings with it many challenges - particularly for women and especially for Pacific women. We now have the opportunity to start adding more names of strong Pacific women to our list of role models in Pacific women's leadership.

Our Pacific people are energised, youthful and optimistic about the future. The Pacific Women's Economic Development Plan and the Pacific Economic Development Plan focus on key areas for development including education; workforce development; business development; creative, emerging, and growth industries; entrepreneurial culture; and leadership.

The statistics on the economic status of Pacific women are low compared to all women in New Zealand. According to the New Zealand Income Survey - June 2005, the average annual income for Pacific women was $28,132 compared to Maori women $29,692 and Pakeha women $31,968. In tertiary education less than 5 per cent of Pacific women have bachelor degrees compared to almost 7 per cent of all females.

Pacific women are under-represented in leadership roles such as Chief Executives, Managing Directors, and middle managers. Statistics show that some Pacific women are doing well, but we want to move more Pacific women to above average and into leadership roles in the private and public sector.

The Pacific population is growing faster than the New Zealand average population and will be a considerably larger proportion of the New Zealand working age population in the future.

We need to work together collectively to up our game. We want our women to gain high level skills, which lead to long term sustainable and gainful employment. We also know that when our Pacific women are achieving, our Pacific families are also doing well.

An example of how this is already happening is a programme aimed at increasing participation of Pacific Women in Nursing Auckland and Wellington. There are a number of women holding nursing qualifications gained in Pacific countries who are either unemployed, working in low level positions in the New Zealand Health Sector, or have allowed their registration to lapse. These women could gain New Zealand qualifications if they pass the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test.

This programme provides flexible, tailored foundation learning and English language training for the group of identified women. A partnership has been formed with DHB's to employ these women with further pastoral care provided to ensure that they remain in employment.

The Labour-led government wants to ensure that Pacific women and their families are equipped to play their part in our high income, knowledge-based economy of the future.

I am heartened that this fono is looking to the future and how Pacific women are positioning themselves and their community to grow in economic prosperity and become the business and industry leaders of the future. It is important that we work together to encourage economic self sufficiency for our Pasifika peoples through a mix of private enterprise and industry leadership.

The Pacific Women's Economic Development Advisory Board is a group of highly talented women who display leadership and intellect across the fields of business, enterprise, research and academia. These women all have a history of strong leadership in empowering Pacific women to achieve. They have done this through their own actions and by setting a positive example to those around them.

The Chair of the Board is Pele Walker, who is here with us today. Pele is already well experienced in the issues many women face in business as the owner of People Mediation, a practice which focuses on mediation and conflict resolution. She is also the chair of the Creative New Zealand Pacific Arts Committee as well as a member of the St James Theatre Trust.

Pele and the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs will speak today about the Pacific Women's Economic Development Plan and the exciting initiatives that will empower Pacific women now and in the future to launch exciting businesses, careers and educational opportunities.

Today we honour you - our Pacific women for the positive influence you have had over our Pacific communities - and we also prepare ourselves for the beginning of a new journey and new possibilities for the future.

Pasifika people have made great advances under the Labour-led government. Pacific unemployment has dropped down from 14.9 per cent in 1999 to 5.5 per cent in 2007, Working for Families is increasing the incomes of thousands of our families, and we are making a real and positive difference to our Pacific children and their families with 20 hours Free Early Childhood Education, saving families up to $4500 a year per child.

The Pacific Women's Economic Development Plan and the Pacific Women's Economic Development Advisory Board are exciting initiatives that will lift the economic potential and prosperity of Pacific women in New Zealand and we need to work together to make this happen.

I would like to end by reading you a poem that captures the essence of Pacific women, called "Women of the Pacific".

We, the women of the Pacific are strong.
We gain our strength from our ancestors;
Their story is our proud history.

We gain our strength from our mothers,
Our fathers, our brothers and our sisters;
For we do not stand alone.

We gain our strength from our cultures,
The traditions that shape and give direction
To our families and communities.

We also gain our strength from the waters
Of the Pacific that birthed us,
And our many islands that sustain us.

We, the women of the Pacific are strong.

Thank you to you all for your generous support - I look forward to hearing your ideas, and working with you all in the future.

Soifua ma ia manuia.


ENDS

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