BPW NZ – what is the Vision and Direction for the Future?
Firstly please accept my apologies in advance for my article, there are a number of things that I wanted to convey to you all this month being membership and issues that you as individuals and clubs can undertake, so it is more than a page long, but do enjoy the read.
First a look of history and membership……. The New Zealand Federation began April 8-10, 1939 in Wellington. “So the eight scattered Clubs of Business and Professional Women of the Y.W.C.A. of New Zealand were grouped on a national basis.” These first clubs were the core that provided the basis for BPW NZ to grow:
* Whangarei * Auckland * Hamilton * Wellington
* New Plymouth * Christchurch * Timaru * Dunedin
So have these clubs been in operation all this time? No some had folded and restarted, others have folded and new clubs formed with a total of 60 clubs being recorded through our history. In some areas there were two clubs for example Christchurch and South Christchurch (both operating independently with their own projects) and other areas such as Central Otago and North Otago. The numbers of clubs and memberships have certainly changed over time with 39 clubs (1993) and 27 clubs in operation today. I am also aware of the consideration and discussions that have been in place for some clubs over the last year in moving forward. I thank you all and hope that over the next year your clubs are not only strengthened but grow.
Noted by Eleanor Palmer, President June 1987 to June 1989 the theme “Why Not a Women” had proven both interesting and challenged clubs to translate this into different activities throughout the country. The catchy BPW – Be Positive Women has braced our members to climb greater heights and has been an appealing slogan to be used to overcome the depressing effects of the socio-economic climate in our country.” In today this is still relevant.
Membership numbers have always been of importance to the Federation and in Eleanor Palmer’s report it was noted that a “new concept has been introduced to divide New Zealand clubs into nine areas with an Area Co-ordinator who would be responsible to the Membership Chairman and be on her committee.” This approach had been re-instigated last year through Mentors from the Executive to be a point of contact to help provide an additional means of communication so please use the resources offered so we can assist you all. In addition I would welcome any regions that would like to add another name to the list to work in assisting local clubs and membership.
Issues and the Vision for BPW members and their clubs……. There were a large number of issues that were facing women during the early years of BPW and other women’s organisations who wanted to be involved in making a difference. As Rae Julian, UNIFEM NZ President noted in her recent speech at BPW Tamaki’s Candlelighting Ceremony, women were encouraged during the 30’s and 40’s to go out to work to support the war effort, in the 50’s and 60’s the women’s role was reversed, to be mothers, housewives, the homemaker and for a large number of women this caused additional challenges, both emotionally and socially. Women were further challenged in their careers, if they got married they could not continue within their profession, for example nurses and teachers.
BPW members became a positive voice for change, to give women rights to chose to have families and work or to stay at home and raise their children. We have further developed this through the support of Parental Leave, Breast Feeding in the workplace, child care to name a few. But, challenges are still there for women to face, if they should work, if they have to work, lifestyles and financial demands, families and extended families, women who should be enjoying retirement now required to raise another generation….. the years may have passed but issues have only changed names!
Our Founding President Margery Toulson noted in her report in September 1963 (the month/year I was born!) “We of the New Zealand Federation have attempted much; we have even achieved a good deal in our short life but we have also left undone, or half done, many things for which there will be work needed for a long time ahead……I think particularly of work to which we have contributed, such as Jury Service for Women, Equal Rights for Women, Women in Public Office, etc, which will go on developing and shaping for a long time yet. The important thing is that our initial purpose and zeal should continue………really creative work just cannot go into oblivion……. With time, effort and leadership, it goes on and on.” As a President and long term member her perception of events throughout the country and internationally were astute and she never stopped her belief in BPW, as noted “Whatever we achieve in the future, whatever advances we make, will only be by the unity and individual effort of every member.”
When reading the history book of 1939-93 it is noted that there were various Standing Committees and different clubs would take on specific tasks or issues for the organisation, certainly the “Employment Committee attended many meetings of the Council for Equal Pay and Opportunity (CEPO) and the Committee for Equal Value Equal Pay (CEVEP) and we thanked the Wellington members of the Standing Committee for their time and energy.” Audrey Harris, June 1989 to June 1991.
There are issues today that as members of BPW we can collectively as the Federation and individually at club level write submissions to government, raise awareness in our communities, look at national projects with other groups e.g. the Project 5.0 at the base roots which were successful in the past and there are groups who would like to work with us again. At conference when all members and delegates were present we asked what are the key issues that BPW see needs to be dealt with under the CEDAW reports. Here is the list in the order that you as members identified:
- Domestic Violence / Family Violence
- Drugs and Alcohol Abuse
- Pay Equity
- Equal Pay
- Equal Opportunity
- Care of our aged
- (Affordable) Health Care, Health, Well-being, Work life Balance, Connectedness
- Child Care
- Unemployment / Employment opportunities
- Financial independence
- Literacy / Numeracy
- Bullying (workplace and schools)
- Lack of support for women who chose to stay at home
- Cultural Practices in NZ – child brides / circumcision
- Quality of food
- Lack of equality for women with disabilities
So these are projects that BPW can undertake at club level and nationally. These are issues that have not gone away and it is concerning that the younger generation and not so young, believe that there are no issues with Pay Equity, that everyone has an equal opportunity and there are no discriminations. This is not true and BPW you have the power to make a difference, to lead by example, the history and reputation is there which we can build on and I would like to challenge each club to register for a particular project and send it through to go on a register (all names will be kept confidential) but we can then look at speakers, submissions and ideas to get everyone involved in all levels. Your thoughts and comments are always appreciated and what might be a challenge for one club, another may have a solution or have dealt with something similar and have a resolution.
To end this report I would like to leave the final note to the first BPW NZ President and NZ’s first BPW International Vice President Margery Toulson … … “I have sometimes been concerned to hear members speak of the Federation as though it were something apart – something to which we are simply attached, but we are the Federation – each individual member of each Club is a unit of the whole – we are the Federation. Each active member adds a part to the whole work – work for the advancement of women.”
Carolyn Savage, PBPW
BPW NZ 1st Vice President