• Georgina te Heuheu
Women's Affairs

"New Zealand has for some time focused on a conscious recognition of women's rights, choices and well being. These are the cornerstones of the Cairo Programme of Action and are critical to women's equitable access to development," the Minister for Women's Affairs Georgina te Heuheu told a special session of the United Nations General Assembly today.

The Minister was there to reaffirm New Zealand's commitment to the Programme of Action that was developed from important goals established at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) at Cairo in 1994.

"We believe that the participation of women in all spheres of economic, political and cultural life must be achieved if women are to fully access economic and social benefits and opportunities," the Minister said.

"New Zealand has always played an important role in supporting and encouraging sexual and reproductive health rights and the rights of women which are central to the Programme of Action," Mrs te Heuheu said.

In the past five years key initiatives have included:
· improved access to contraception through the removal of financial barriers and free access to contraceptive advice and counseling for groups at high risk of poor sexual health
· implementation of national cervical and breast screening programmes
· the inclusion of comprehensive sexuality education within the school curriculum and resources for schools to assist them to implement sexuality education, and
· pilot programmes to improve the delivery of sexual health services for Pacific people living in New Zealand.

"Strong families are at the heart of a strong nation and our Government is committed to building a strong nation," the Minister said.

"When families are healthy and able to support themselves our nations will prosper. Sexual and reproductive health is central to the development of healthy and productive nations. Poor sexual and reproductive health comes with a cost to our nations, our communities and our people," Mrs te Heuheu said.

"In our development assistance programme we are committed to implementation of the Programme of Action and have participated actively in a number of international population activities,"

"As we come to the end of the 20th century we collectively face a significant challenge, to build on the gains we have made since Cairo and to ensure the future well-being of our global community," the minister concluded.