Supporting Parenthood is high on New Zealand’s agenda

Julie Anne Genter

New York, March 14, 2019

New Zealand aligns itself with the statement made by Nauru on behalf of the Pacific Island Forum Member States.

I am pleased to reaffirm New Zealand’s strong commitment to our international obligations.

We are also committed to supporting sustainable development and gender equality, and to our role as part of the rules-based system.

Duties of parenthood

Six months ago, I gave birth to my first child. I know very practically now what I only knew theoretically before – looking after a baby is a big job. For me to do my work as a Government Minister, I am reliant on my Partner taking unpaid leave to look after our child, to do the washing and cooking.

I am in good company, as our Prime Minister Jacinda Adern’s Partner is also taking up the primary caregiver role.

But this is still unusual.

A majority of unpaid caring work like this has been carried out by women, and it is a large reason we have a persistent gender pay gap.

The work of bearing and raising children has been ignored by indicators of economic success simply because there is no commercial transaction involved.

It is unpaid work, yet it is perhaps the most important and productive work that underlies all else we do as a society. Ensuring this work is properly supported is essential to a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable future.

New Zealand takes strides

In New Zealand we are taking steps to improve this support. In the past 18 months we extended paid parental leave, and introduced a universal child payment for the first year of a child’s life.

We are also investigating how we can overhaul our welfare system, among other things, to ensure that sole parents, who are mostly mothers, have incomes that allow them to raise their children without living in poverty.

In May, the New Zealand Government will deliver its first “Wellbeing Budget.”

The goal of this approach is to focus the Government’s priorities and investments on the long term, and the things that really matter.

An inclusive model

We must go beyond GDP growth as a measure of success, and incorporate the health of our finances, natural resources, people, and communities in government planning.

This more inclusive model will recognise the frequently undervalued contribution of women to society’s wellbeing.

Indigenous women in many countries are experiencing specific barriers and poorer outcomes than other citizens.

New Zealand shares this challenge. We are committed to working with Māori, the indigenous peoples of New Zealand, to develop better solutions based on Māori values and approaches.

Partnership Approach

We have examples of health and educations services which are by-Māori-for-Māori, which supports families to achieve their aspirations rather than providing the usual siloed services to individuals. We commend a partnership approach to other member states.

We are working to eliminate family and sexual violence through integrated, community-based responses and improvements to the justice system. We are strengthening our focus on prevention, building respectful gender relationships in our families, communities and workplaces.

Climate Change is the greatest challenge that we collectively face, and women are disproportionately affected by its negative impacts.

New Zealand is committed to playing its part through climate action.

Zero Carbon Bill

Our Government is working on a Zero Carbon Bill, to set New Zealand on a path to a just transition to a low-emissions, climate-resilient economy.

We have a fantastic opportunity to design sustainable infrastructure systems that also improve equity. For example, public transport, footpaths and protected cycleways, and urban design that takes into account the needs and perspectives of women is also safer and more accessible for everyone. It saves money, improves health, and protects the climate.

The empowerment of women and girls goes hand in hand with social justice, peace, economic prosperity, and climate action. This is the opportunity, and our responsibility, to create a better future for all.

Julie Anne Genter is New Zealand’s Minister of Women. The above is New Zealand’s National Statement at the 63rd Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in New York today (March 14, 2019) Picture Supplied: Inset: Julie Anne Genter (INL Graphics)

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