17 December, 2010
New Zealand leads on women's equality
New Zealand is ranked among those at the top of the world for gender equality according to a report to the United Nations (UN) released by Women’s Affairs Minister Hekia Parata today.
The seventh report to the UN under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) recognises New Zealand as a leader in gender equality and this is reflected in the CEDAW report.
The CEDAW report is prepared every four years and is a ‘report card’ to the UN on how well Kiwi women are doing.
"In the latest Global Gender Gap Report New Zealand is again ranked fifth in the world, behind the Scandinavians and 18 places above Australia, which was rated twenty-third.”
The CEDAW report shows progress in areas like education and the pay gap. Māori women in particular are doing much better in education.
“Māori women’s educational attainment still lags behind non-Maori, but there has been some improvement. Māori women now have the highest tertiary education participation rates, and the rate at which they are gaining school-based qualifications is increasing more quickly for Māori than other women.
“I’m encouraged by the trends, but complacency forms no part of our drive to do better across the board.”
The Minister says the report shows New Zealand is still not making the best use of women’s skills in leadership or the economy.
“We have a high rate of women in paid work – ninth in the OECD – but women are still under represented in senior positions.
“This is not just a fairness issue, it's a productivity issue. New Zealand can't reach its full potential if we're not making the best use of all the skills we have available to us."
Ms Parata says work in this area is one of the Ministry's priorities.
Another priority area is reducing sexual violence and family violence, issues the CEDAW report acknowledges, continue to be of serious concern to the Government.
“There are some signs that we are beginning to change attitudes towards family violence, but there's a long way to go before we significantly reduce violence against women and children.
“As a Government we are determined to make a difference in this area."
The full CEDAW report is available at www.mwa.govt.nz – follow the link from the home page.
Background Q & A
What is CEDAW?
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women is an international agreement adopted in 1979 by the United Nations. New Zealand was one of the first countries to sign the agreement and there are now 180 signatories. CEDAW defines discrimination as it applies to women and sets out an agenda for countries to end such discrimination. It is often described as an international bill of rights for women.
What issues does CEDAW cover?
CEDAW contains a series of measures to end all forms of discrimination against women, particularly in law and application of the law. It supports the right of all women to have access equal to that of men to participate in all aspects of society.
New Zealand’s 7th report (covering the period March 2006 to March 2010) includes updates on women’s representation in governance, employment opportunities, pay equity, prostitution, violence against women and the needs of disabled women, Māori women, refugee and migrant women.
How often does New Zealand prepare CEDAW reports?
Signatory countries must provide a report detailing progress towards CEDAW goals every four years. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs is responsible for managing New Zealand’s international obligations in relation to women.
What happens to the reports?
The CEDAW committee reviews the reports and issues a series of follow-up questions. There is then a hearing for each country, when a delegation appears before the committee to answer questions. The committee can ask further questions at that stage, or request clarification or more information. The committee then provides an appraisal including positive progress, areas of concern and suggestions and recommendations for improvement towards meeting CEDAW goals.
What are shadow CEDAW reports?
CEDAW provides for shadow reports to be presented by non-government groups to the CEDAW committee. When New Zealand presented its 6th CEDAW report in 2006, shadow reports were presented by the National Council of Women of New Zealand; the Māori Women’s Welfare League and Pacific Women’s Watch. It is likely that some NGOs will present shadow reports again next year (2011) when New Zealand’s 7th CEDAW report is considered by the United Nations.
Information from the United Nations. For more see: www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/index.htm