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“Inspiring Change” – International Women’s Day, 8 March

“Inspiring Change” – International Women’s Day, 8 March

Jackie Blue, Commissioner for Women’s Rights at the Human Rights Commission, heads for the United Nations in New York on Saturday, International Women’s Day, to ensure New Zealand women’s success stories are heard.

She travels as part of a national delegation to attend the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) where she will be speaking about New Zealand’s highly successful breast screening programme.

“Breast cancer deaths are still too high at around 600 each year but my congratulation goes to BreastScreen Aotearoa at achieving 73% coverage of all eligible women in December 2013.

“The international gold standard is 70% and the programme achieved this late 2011. Particularly pleasing is that the coverage of Pacific women is the highest of all at 73%. Coverage for Maori women is at 66% and while this has improved, more work needs to be done”.

Jackie Blue says the meeting will be attended by several thousand women representing governments and non-government organisations (NGOs) from across the globe, all carrying the concerns, issues and achievements of women from their countries. The CSW theme this year is Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls.

“At this meeting issues and strategies for change are shared. They will include concerns and successes that New Zealand women reflect on regularly and not just one day of the year. For example, violence against women is still our national shame. And although more women than men attend university – a statistic we can applaud – women are still under-represented at the board tables of power in our country. Clearly we are doing well in some things but still have a long way to go.”

International Women’s Day is celebrated in many countries, including New Zealand, on 8 March. It is a day when women are recognised for their achievements without regard to ethnicity, language, cultural, political or economic differences. On this day in particular women look back on past struggles and accomplishments and more importantly, focus on the potential and opportunities ahead.

What is International Women’s Day?
In 1975, during International Women's Year, the United Nations began celebrating International Women's Day on8 March. This year’s theme is ‘Inspiring Change’.

What areas of Women’s Rights is New Zealand doing well in?
• Breast cancer statistics show we are succeeding in this battle.
• Across the world, we have one of the smallest gender pay gaps (when hourly rates of pay are considered). But, nowhere in the world has equality been achieved.
• Because New Zealand Superannuation is universal and not linked to lifetime earnings, older women are less likely to live in poverty than women in other countries.
• Access to education for women has resulted in more women than men at university in a world where secondary education is a dream for many girls.
• Our representation in parliament is better than most places in the region, but equality still some way off.

What areas of Women’s Rights is New Zealand NOT doing well in?
• Violence against women – it is our national shame and ‘dark secret’
• At the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva early this year, among the 155 recommendations made there was an overwhelming focus on reducing violence and abuse against women and children. In particular New Zealand was called on to ensure that programmes and services were adequately resourced, and continually monitored and adjusted to ensure their effectiveness.
• Women are the majority of those earning at or just above the minimum wage
• Women are still under-represented at the ‘top table’.
• The whakapapa on women’s suffrage shows equality is still some years away: 120 years since women’s suffrage, 95 years since women have been allowed to stand for parliament, 80 years since the first woman MP, only 11 years with a woman prime minister.

What is the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women?
The Commission on the Status of Women is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. Every year, representatives of Member States gather at United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and women's empowerment worldwide.


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