International Women’s Day

I was asked to write a blog for the Reuter’s Online Great Debate series recently, about International Women’s Day in New Zealand.  Here it is – cross-posted, though it’s probably a little too general for an audience in Aotearoa I think 🙂

New Zealand was formally colonised late in world terms, after the Treaty of Waitangi was signed with indigenous Maori in 1840. Colonists came with grand ideas of building a “better Britain.” All could aspire to own property, and the most advanced indigenous people in the world were to be treated the best by the most humanitarian settlers.

This “better Britain” included fewer restrictions on women’s roles, partially shaped by Maori societies with quite different gender norms about what it meant to be a girl.

By 1893, New Zealand became the first nation-state to enfranchise women, congruent with the developing self-image of an egalitarian society with no class divisions, racism or sexism.

According to politician William Pember Reeves, “they simply asked for the vote, and we simply gave it to them.”

New Zealanders largely continue to believe girls can do anything. Inequality and gender conflict are minimized, while women’s successes are well-noted and often receive world renown.

International Women’s Day events on March 8 will be attended by women working hard to ensure the rhetoric matches the reality. Power is never “simply given” away, and despite legislation promoting equality, New Zealand women face particular battles precisely because power imbalances are unacknowledged, often neutered by “de-gendering.”

For example, domestic violence is now “family violence.” Despite the cuddly renaming, it remains both endemic and deadly.

Police attend an incident about every seven minutes. One in three women report experiencing male partner violence during their lives. A woman is killed by her former or current male partner every five weeks.

Yet retail giant The Warehouse could briefly sell “Lady Killer” sweatshirts, complete with a picture of a drunk woman in her underwear, apparently with no fear of backlash. New Zealand women were not so compliant.

A national sexual violence taskforce is currently investigating why, despite improved technology and increased reporting, rape cases rarely result in a conviction.

Most women still do not report rape most of the time. When they do, they often face trial by media.

Louise Nicholas alleged she was raped as a teenager in the 1980s. The case centred on whether we believed a young woman would have consensual sex, including with a baton, with three police officers at once.

All three were acquitted in 2006 – two returning to prison to finish serving sentences for gang-raping a different young woman. This had been inadmissible in court lest it influence decision-making.

The sex industry, decriminalized and relatively small, employs growing numbers of migrant women from south-east Asia and Eastern Europe. Yet trafficking into prostitution continues to be something we read about happening in other countries.

Last election women made up 34 percent of parliament. The Green and Maori Parties use gender co-leader positions to safeguard women’s representation. After nine years of Prime Minister Helen Clark, oft-vilified by opponents for her looks and choice not to be a mother, leadership of both major parties is now back in male hands.

Government responses to the global recession prompt questions about women’s workforce participation, and signs in New Zealand are not promising. A newly elected centre-right government plans to boost economic recovery by building roads, cycle-ways and schools – jobs for women do not feature.

They have also axed programmes to improve women’s pay in the public sector – still lagging behind men’s by nearly 10 percent in the field of social work, for example – in order to control public spending.

So International Women’s Day in New Zealand brings challenges. The reputation for gender equality precedes us – but also makes it difficult at times to name struggles as gendered. It will be a day for reflection, for women from New Zealand’s many ethnicities to come together and take stock.

Where we have come from, where we wish to go.

How we match the rhetoric of equality to the reality of absence of discrimination and oppression.


5 thoughts on “International Women’s Day

  1. Nicely put together although I’m struggling to work out where you come with this gem: “the most advanced indigenous people in the world”. Maori in 1840 were the most advanced indigenous people in the world? What about, say, the indigenous Greeks? Italians? Arabs?

    • Hey Bearhunter,
      Yep, knew that one was going to cause some comment, but limited space to explain the ideas in this blog.
      This is a comparison historians have made between settler societies colonised by European countries in 18th and 19th centuries. So comparisons of Maori with Native Americans, Native Canadians, South American indigenous groups, Aboriginal Australians etc etc. Maori were supposed to be most advanced – good at war, hierarchically organised societies – etc etc. Essentially colonialist analysis of societies they often did not understand very well. James Belich has written lots about this if you’re interested in reading more.

  2. A Tribute to Women – The Architects of Life

    International Women’s Day – Commemorating;

    Celebrating with Pride; Women, the Pride of the World

    It is a great privilege and honor to express these few words of admiration and appreciation in honor of Women; the Pride of our Lives

    Architects with Pride

    Women are indeed the proud architects of Life


    Women provide immense guidance along every structure of life


    Women construct foundations that encompass virtues of the highest goodness for one and all meaningfully

    Envisage; Vision; Wisdom

    Women envisage their expectations manifesting with a vision of wisdom as only women can

    Family; Passions

    Women empower their Families; enabling them to re discover their passions in life meaningfully

    Instrumental; Steps

    Women perceive impediments as stepping stones to potential accomplishments


    Women sketch the hallmarks of time with heart prints of love that only women can

    Women; Mothers

    Women as Mothers are the epitome of divinity

    Teacher; Imparting Values Based Principles Teachings

    Women are amongst the the wisest of teachers

    Legends; Centuries

    Women are amongst the very greatest of legends since time immemorial

    Intuitive – Insightful

    Women are intuitive and insightful; articulating their notions intuitively

    Eminent Reminder

    Women thoughtfully remind us that the Soul characterizes the essence of life


    Women compliment each and every day of life, by defining the virtue of admiration eloquently; only as women can

    Affection; Love & Respect

    Women spend their lifetime showering immense affection to each and every aspect of life; only as women can


    Women teach us to immensely appreciate and recognize of the phenomenal treasures of versatile abilities that we have been endowed with and to utilize these meaningfully

    Beauty; Heart Perceiving

    Women teach us to understand and recognize that the true beauty of life is not relating to the physical appearance; but to the beauty of the Heart


    Women enable us to perceive the purity of our hearts filled with compassion; to recognize the gentleness; the compassionate nature that dwells within


    Women teach us that consideration and thoughtfulness for others around us creates an incredible difference and impact in our lives as well


    Women encourage us to become more creative and explore our greater potentialities meaningfully whilst managing the certainties that dwell alongside


    Women truly bring out the moral courage that resides within us magnificently


    Women with their resilient attitude and determination show us that the endurance; the strength within us is inspired with an indomitable willpower

    Encouragement; Meaningful Balance

    Women encourage us to soar to reach the altitudes of meaningful objectives and accomplishments, whilst reminding us to simultaneously maintain our attention on the ascent to the pinnacle precariously; as well as ensuring our optimal balance is carefully maintained-sustained diligently


    Women teach us to believe in our true selves with the purpose of accomplishing greater good for others and ourselves as well


    Women teach us that gratitude is essentially a sign of nobility; the more grateful we are; the more meaningful we are; the more purposeful we are and the more responsible we are while gratefully acknowledging all that we have humbly; we are further equipped with more resourcefulness accordingly


    Women bring tremendous happiness to their families with their graceful and loving attitude always


    Women inspire us to have hope; to trust and recognize its uniqueness


    Women inspire us with their caring touch in every aspect of family upbringing; family evolution; nurturing each life preciously and adding meaningfulness to every aspect as only women can do


    Women are intelligent and demonstrate their proficiency in being able to grasp and understand various aspects of life more meaningfully


    Women motivate us to recognize the value of each moment for what it signifies and to ensure that it is wisely invested in with a meaningful approach always


    Women are noble and bring about remarkable changes in the World at every instance by truly winning the admiration and hearts of People always; Whenever any reference is attributed to Women, it is extended with the very highest Pride; Honor and Nobility


    Women evoke us to instill a passion for appreciation of the very finest in life always and making us believe that we have what it takes to accomplish meaningful objectives


    Women teach us that the theory of peaceful co existence; non violence in all forms of thoughts; speeches and actions is among the very most vital and essential ingredient of each an every aspect of life


    Women are purposeful and thoughtfully express their perspective with a meaningful approach regarding various aspects of life


    Women are gifted with so many more wonderful and the very most finest virtues that they are always enriching each and every aspect of life meaningfully

    To give an example

    When we perceive the attitude; the compassion; the love and care; the gracefulness of Mothers; we are humbly appreciative; grateful; very most thankful and always Respectfully acknowledging the greatness of Mothers; Truly Mothers are the greatest gift of God


    Mothers always teach us to appreciate what we have in life; to recognize the value of each and every aspect in life; to be appreciative; to be grateful; to be thankful and to meaningfully; purposefully and responsibly utilize each and every moment in life meticulously and very preciously

    Mothers teach us that

    Mothers teach us that grandeur; the beauty of life cannot be touched or experienced with our vision alone; it is the perception with our truly awakened heart; intellect; mind and soul that we are able to perceive the wonderfulness of this Universe and its magnificence

    Mothers also teach us that

    Mothers also teach us to have hope; courage and a vision; that when one avenue of happiness is bereft with impediments; there are always another avenues of meaningful happiness that are there in life provided of course that we take the meaningful; purposeful and responsible initiatives intelligently and spontaneously; while ensuring that no permission is given to any avenues that might be deviating from ethical practices; practicing and observance of a conventional protocol of good and responsible conduct and character always

    Tribute to our Mothers

    As a token of appreciation for the immense and very most valuable efforts that our Mothers take for us; we should always strive to accomplish and excel in our respective endeavors; taking care of our duties; our agendas; our assignments; our objectives; meaningfully; purposefully and responsibly always


    The above was a very brief admirable prelude since the greatness of Women could not be expressed in these few words alone

    History; Women are Truly the Pride of our Lives

    History is testament to the evidential factor that will always proudly express that Women are truly the Pride of our Lives always; and it is a privilege to acknowledge this with appreciation; utmost thanks and gratefulness


    May One and All be Appreciative; Grateful and Thankful


    May Happiness be showered on One and All; May One and All be Healthy;


    May One and All be Loved & Respected; May One and All have Well-being


    May One and All realize that their Happiness is linked to others Happiness;


    May One and All recognize that when the World is Happy, they are Happier;


    May One and All discover the true meaning of Life is that Life is Precious


    May One and All be Resourceful & Talented; May One and All Achieve and Excel;


    May One and All be Considerate; Creative; Meaningful; Purposeful and Responsible;


    May One and All Love Nature; The Environment & Humanity;


    May One and All Respect One Another; May One and All Inspire One Another;


    May One and All realize that they each have a very meaningful and special purpose in Life;


    May One and All believe that they are the precious Gems of this Universe;


    May One and All realize that Life is Beautiful; Precious, Meaningful and Purposeful;


    May One and All be a Symbol of Gods Loving Love and Light; Radiating Joy for others;


    May One and All be Blessed with a Vision of Happiness, Prosperity, Progress and Wisdom always

    Gratitude; Many Thanks

    Thank you for your attention and good wishes; God Bless

    Universal Appreciation; Happiness; Gratitude & Wisdom May

    Universal Appreciation; Happiness; Consideration; Compassion; Respect; Peace; Love; Cooperation; Inspiration; Gratitude; Economic Development, Stability; Prosperity, Progress & Wisdom prevail always

    Love & Light;

    God Bless,


    ©2009 Vashi Ram Chandi

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