Making the most of the opportunity to have our say

The New Zealand Federation of Business and Professional Women (BPW NZ) is the voice of all women.  We need to remember this.  So many women need a voice like ours to speak for them and advocate for them so that their lives can improve.

At our recent executive meeting we agreed that BPW International’s first and third aims were the springboard for all lobbying and submissions.  These are:

1) to work for women’s:

  • economic independence
  • equal opportunity and representation in economic, civil and political life

2) to advocate:

  • for the elimination of all discrimination against women
  • for human rights and gender-sensitive perspectives

(If you look at our aims on the website you will see the second and fourth aims are primarily about our projects and programmes).

Our policy

When we put in a submission or write a lobby letter we use our policy to ensure we are speaking on behalf of all members and to give weight to our case.  But when we look at our policy, http://bpwnz.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Policy-May-2012.pdf  you will find that many areas of concern to women are not covered.

This was brought home to me recently when looking at the Social Housing Reform Bill and realising that we had no policy that related to this.  We’ve also got big holes around the areas of employment dealing with seasonal and contract work and how that dovetails with the new Jobseeker Support benefit (many women are in insecure employment of this type). Do we need to take a stance on the Living Wage?  What other areas are we not covering?

I’d encourage you to think about our policy and talk in your clubs about these issues with the aim of bringing a remit to conference next year so that our policy can become richer and more relevant to women’s needs today.  It’s a good idea to get started now as remits have to be in to our Resolutions chair by 1st December this year.

Submissions we are working on

Meanwhile the Legislation Task Force is working on submissions for the Constitution Conversation (submission date has been extended by one month) and the Employment Relations Amendment Bill.  Others we will submit on once we know the submission dates are the Victims Orders against Violent Offenders Bill, the Objectionable Publications and Indecency Legislation Bill, the Social Security (Fraud Measures and Debt Recovery) Amendment Bill and the Human Right Amendment Bill.

The outcome from submissions

Encouragement to use our voice comes from knowing that other women need us to speak and also to know that our voice is effective.  It was great to see the select committee report on the Family Court Proceedings Reform Bill come out on the 4th of June listing the key changes to the Bill:

  • providing up to four hours of legal support for parents who meet the legal aid  threshold prior to court
  • providing up to three hours of preparatory counselling per case to help parents make the most of Family Dispute Resolution (FDR)
  • enabling a judge to refer parties back to FDR or the Parenting through Separation course if it is likely to help resolve the case
  • enabling lawyers to participate earlier in the court process, at the judge’s discretion, if it would increase the chances of a successful resolution
  • providing greater clarity around the provisions for dealing with domestic violence
  • enabling provisions of the Act to be brought into force on different dates by Order in Council, providing flexibility in implementing some changes.  Slowing down the implementation of some parts of the bill by one year to ensure all processes and trained personnel are in place first

What a great result!  And much of this was included in the BPW NZ submission.

Can you help?

 Yes, we are taking on a big task going forward but it is very rewarding.  The more women who pool their expertise and thoughts help make our submissions stronger and more effective.

Offering to help with submissions does not commit you to working on all of them. Let me know if you would like to contribute in this area and if you have particular areas of interest or expertise.  Please contact me at fvp@bpwnz.org.nz

Vicky Mee,

Vice President Issues

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