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Chadwick: Call to Action on MDG 3

Hon Steve Chadwick
Minister of Women’s Affairs

20 August 2008 Speech Notes
Women Hold Up Half the Sky: Call to Action on MDG 3

Speech by Minister of Women’s Affairs Steve Chadwick at the third Millennium Development Goal torch handover ceremony,
Parliament Buildings,

Rau rangatira mā, tēnei te mihi ki a koutou i runga i te kaupapa o te rā.

Ko Te Mata taku maunga
Ko Tukituki taku awa
Ko Tau iwi
Ko ngati pakeha ahau
Ko Steve Chadwick taku ingoa

No reira. Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā rā tātou katoa.

Ladies and gentleman, I would like to warmly welcome you all here this evening.

I would especially like to acknowledge Kenneth Fink-Jensen, (Royal Danish Consulate-General), the many national representatives here tonight, from France, Mexico, Japan, Republic of Peru, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the Netherlands, Malaysia and Pakistan, as well as Hon Margaret Shields (former Minister of Women’s Affairs), Dr Judith Aitken (former CEO MWA), Kerry Prendergast, Mayor of Wellington, representatives of national and international organisations committed to the empowerment of women, my AFPPD colleagues, and fellow MPs.

Women hold up half the sky, according to an ancient Chinese proverb.

What a powerful image. And one that emphasises the importance of the issues that we are drawing attention to tonight.

I am honoured to receive this torch on behalf of New Zealand, and to add our voice to the international call for increased attention and investment in the third Millennium Development Goal. We are proud to say that ‘we commit to do more’ for gender equality and the world’s women.

Women are the backbone of families, villages, communities and nations. Yet globally, they are much more likely than men to be poor, malnourished, illiterate, and have inadequate access to basic health services.

This must change. We must do all that we can to ensure that women, no matter where in the world they live, have a voice, and have their rights protected. Advancing women’s rights has a direct link to economic growth, sustainable development, good governance, and peace.

The MDG3 recognises this, and seeks to promote gender equality and empower all women by 2015.

Unfortunately progress is slow.

New Zealand is a country that has always been a strong supporter of women’s rights and we continue to be committed to the advancement of gender equality in the 21st century. This includes playing a leadership role in our region, and making sure women’s issues receive the attention they deserve.

We do this regionally through the work of the New Zealand Parliamentarians’ Group on Population and Development, which I have had the honour to be associated with for a number of years. And we do it at home, through policies that address the real needs of New Zealand women. These include paid parental leave, and free high quality child care, and initiatives like the taskforces that are co-ordinating efforts to end family and sexual violence.

We’ve prioritised gender and human rights issues across both our domestic and foreign policy agendas – especially in the area of our Overseas Development Assistance Programme.

Gender equality is absolutely central to good development practice – poverty will not be overcome without prioritising women’s empowerment. So, what is NZAID, our international aid and development agency, doing about this?

Firstly, they are making sure that gender issues are mainstreamed across all our development work; this means making the invisible visible, so that strategies for achieving gender equality are explicitly articulated and measurable. Right through from the design to the evaluation of an activity, gender issues will be discussed, acted upon, and monitored.

Secondly, they are supporting a range of activities that specifically address gender disparities and empower women economically, socially, and politically.

In accepting this torch, I am pleased to announce tonight some new ways through which we are playing our part to support MDG3.

NZAID will increase its annual contribution to the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) by $500,000 this year and next. This represents a trebling of New Zealand’s contribution to UNIFEM in recent years.

New Zealand will also increase its contribution to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) from $4.5 million to $6 million in the coming year.

UNFPA’s work is critical to the achievement of the MDG5 maternal mortality goal, which is inextricably linked to MDG3, and this Call to Action.

Tonight we are reinforcing our commitment to progress gender equality across all our aid and development efforts.

New Zealand’s special relationship with the Pacific underpins our deep commitment to working with partners to advance the status of Pacific women.

While some countries in the region have made good progress, for others progress is mixed.

Domestic, family and sexual violence against women and girls is prevalent. And women continue to be disadvantaged in terms of access to education, employment and livelihood opportunities.

In some countries, women’s access to general and reproductive health care remains far below what they have a right to expect.

For example, a woman in Papua New Guinea, in the western Pacific, is fifty times more likely to die in childbirth than in New Zealand. The latest statistics suggest that maternal mortality there has actually doubled in the last ten years.

Gender inequality and violence are also significant causes and consequences of the spread of HIV and AIDS.

New Zealand is doing what it can to respond to these challenges through our aid programme. A new 10-year strategy of support to Papua New Guinea is strongly focused on gender equality and women’s empowerment, and on improving the delivery of primary health services, including support for sexual and reproductive health services and rights. Support will also be extended to build the capacity of organisations focused on addressing women’s rights and violence against women.

New Zealand also supports a range of initiatives at the wider regional level which will progress MDG3.

These include continued support to improve sexual and reproductive health services in the Pacific. This recognises the low rates of contraceptive use, high rates of teenage pregnancy, and high rates of sexually transmitted infections.

NZAID has also recently committed to support a programme to improve the quality of nursing in the region – the majority of nurses being women.

So this evening, I would like to invite my Pacific Parliamentary colleagues in the region (and those here tonight) to join me in accepting this torch. As members of Parliament, and members of the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (AFPPD), we each have a duty to advocate for gender equality and women’s empowerment in our respective Parliaments.

The Pacific Island region has the lowest representation of women in Parliaments in the world, and five countries have no women MPs at all.

This absolutely has to change. Full participation in the political process for all citizens is a fundamental human right.

New Zealand has consistently encouraged Pacific governments to step up and act as a beacon to their own peoples.

I reinforce that message today, and offer my support, and the support and friendship of the New Zealand Parliament, to our colleagues here tonight.

Finally I want to personally commit to raising the importance of investing in MDG3 with my peers.

The effort we make now will make sure that our daughters, and their daughters – in New Zealand, the Pacific, and around the world – can live alongside our sons, with equal rights and opportunities, in peace, prosperity and hope.


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