Policy to lift the lot of women

The Labour Party Women’s Policy was launched on Women’s Suffrage Day, which is the day New Zealand became the first country in the world to accord women the right to vote.

While we are justified in being proud of the progress that New Zealand women have made in a number of areas over the years, the reality is that despite accounting for more than 50% of the population, New Zealand women are not fully represented or participating in all aspects of public life.

Women do the bulk of unpaid work and are concentrated in low paid and undervalued jobs. Women also suffer high levels of physical and sexual violence.

Therefore, there is much work to be done. Labour has a proud record in working with women to achieve real equality, real opportunity and real choice for them.

Our 2011 Women’s Policy builds on our previous achievements.

It is comprehensive, focused, collaborative, evidence based and proposes long term commitments.

It recognises the different needs of women of all ages, ethnicities and abilities.

Priority areas

Our Women’s policy covers the following priority areas: 1. Employment Equity and Economic Security 2. Paid Parental Leave 3. Caring for Carers and Work Life Balance 4. Women’s Participation and Representation 5. Improved Access to Education and Lifelong Learning 6. Eliminating Violence against Women 7. Women’s Health, in particular maternal health 8. Women in Prison and 9. International Women’s Issues

These policies complement our plans to strengthen the economy by creating more higher paid and higher skilled jobs, implementing a fairer tax system and focusing on our children and young people.

Each of these will accrue major benefits for women.

Employment equity and violence against women are long-standing and deeply entrenched problems that limit women’s choice and opportunities in life.

Labour is serious about taking a strong, comprehensive and integrated approach that will finally address these issues.

Integrated Approach

Women are concentrated in important but low paid jobs.

According to the New Zealand Income Survey (June 2010), 57% of people receiving the minimum wage were women including migrants.

Despite the Equal Pay Act 1972, a persistent gender pay gap exists.

Low and unequal pay affects women’s lifetime earnings and financial independence, family incomes and ability to save for retirement.

It is part of the picture of growing inequality, which affects New Zealand’s future.

Labour has a strong commitment to addressing gender pay inequality; after all, we have tried twice before only to have our responses overturned by incoming National Governments.

Our commitments include (a) lifting the Minimum Wage to $15 per hour to assist in closing the gender pay gap (b) developing legislative and policy responses that recognise the right to equal pay, require a positive duty to advance equality including information about pay rates is made available and (c) provide the mechanism to determine work of equal value.

Family violence

We have a serious problem with family violence and the consequences of which are huge. There are costs to individuals, families and the community.

These include depression, the loss of confidence and other consequences that remain long after the physical injuries have healed.

Children are also hurt by family violence.

In 2008, the Police responded to 82,692 incidents involving some form of domestic violence.

We must do something real to change the violence that pervades our culture.

The response to violence requires a comprehensive approach with action in the criminal justice system as well as in public health and education.

Labour believes this requires a long term unified commitment by politicians, women’s and community organisations and government agencies.

Labour will ensure that all of our policies recognise the needs of all women; for example, the needs of disabled women and ethnic and migrant women.

Well Resourced Plan

Labour will work to build a consensus on a long term unified and adequately resourced plan, which has cross party support to eliminate violence against women. In doing so, we will consider the 12 year, multi-million dollar cross-party approach announced in Australia in 2011.

As part of our significant maternal health policy, we have a significant new commitment to recognise the direct linkage between the health and diet of expectant mothers and the health status of their children, particularly the case for oral health.

Labour will introduce, by the end of our first term in government, a package of free dental care for pregnant women.

Our policy is comprehensive and makes some significant commitments.

It has been well received by a wide range of women and women’s organisations.

I am happy to discuss the Policy with individuals and organisations.

It is important to men, women and children that we achieve real equality, real opportunity and real choice for all New Zealand women.

A full copy the Policy is available online www.labour.org.nz

Carol Beaumont is Member of Parliament on Labour’s List and the Party’s Spokesperson for Women’s Affairs. The above article is exclusive to Indian Newslink ©

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