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Men Welcome at Women’s Convention

Men Welcome at Women’s Convention

Red-blooded Kiwi men who claim that the progress in women’s equality has “got out of hand” should reflect on the fact men had key roles in advancing the role of women, says Margaret Shields, convenor of the Janus Women’s Convention being held on Queen’s Birthday weekend.

“The impetus which began with International Women’s Year in 1974 was facilitated by the men who in those days very much held the country’s purse-strings.

“One of our most outstanding Prime Ministers, Norman Kirk, gave the go-ahead to the formation of the Committee on Women, which organised IWY 1974. Sir Wallace Rowling continued that support and Sir Robert Muldoon not only authorised our resoundingly successful final conference in 1976 but issued the invitations,” says Ms Shields.

“In his letter of invitation Sir Robert wrote: ‘The Government believes all women must have the opportunity to participate on the basis of full equality in the social, cultural, economic and political spheres of New Zealand society.’

“We have seen much of that vision become reality but Sir Robert also cautioned that, ‘The Government recognises that progress affecting the role of women depends fundamentally on a community-wide change in attitudes.’”

Ms Shields says that while legislation has advanced women’s participation on a wide scale, attitudinal change still needs to catch up and she believes next month’s will help resolve residual concerns.

“We want to ensure that the topics being covered by keynote speakers are available to as many people as possible so we are opening the first two plenary sessions to men and women,” she says.

Principal Speaker at the convention is Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, for ten years Prime Minister of Norway and now a member of the Secretary-General of the United Nations’ High Level Committee on Global Security. As Director General of the World Health Organisation she had a key role in the 2002 Earth Summit. She will speak on the key role of women in sustainable development.

“Dr Brundtland is a stunning speaker and the ideal person to draw the links between health, development, sustainability and peace. We believe there are many men who would gain from her address,” Ms Shields says”.

Speakers at the full plenary on the second day of the conference are Australian human rights activist Moira Rayner and Dr Papaarangi Reid who will speak on Maori women’s health.

“Moira Rayner will analyse the changes that have occurred for women and men since 1975 and the new challenges that face us all.

“Men have to be part of that, and I hope that men who share the Convention’s aims of working towards a more balanced society will come to hear these outstanding speakers,” Ms Shields says.

The 2005 Women’s convention is being held in Wellington from June 3 to 6.

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