Gender Equality and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

  • Louise Upston

Talofa lava, and warm Pacific greetings.

I wish to extend my deepest thanks to our hosts, the Government of Samoa.  

I want to acknowledge my counterpart, and our Chair for this meeting, the Hon Faimalotoa Kika Iemaima Stowers, Minister for Women, Community and Social Development. 

To my other Ministerial counterparts and colleagues who have travelled from far and wide, greetings to you all.

A special thanks to the Commonwealth Secretariat for their kind invitation to speak today.  I am honoured to be here.

I am proud to be a Minister for Women in 2016.  Among a number of remarkable gains:

  • Women are contending for leadership roles at the highest level, including making up half of the candidates for the UN’s top job.
  • Women’s achievements at the Rio Olympics were outstanding.  Sakshi Malik delivered India its first medal of the Rio games in wrestling.  Two women received the prestigious Pierre de Coubertin medal for comradery in sport.
  • Women’s organisations worldwide are gearing up with innovative and high profile initiatives to mark the upcoming Women’s Suffrage Day.

Despite these gains, there remains much to do to achieve gender equality.

In the last decade, a further quarter of a billion women entered the workforce.  Yet, their annual pay only now equals what men earned 10 years ago. 

More women than men are enrolling at university in 97 countries.  Yet, women make up the majority of skilled workers in only 68 countries. 

And violence against women remains an issue that has gained little traction.

I know that we are all focussed on these areas.  Some of us have been for some time now.  We are all working to do more, and to do better.

This means ensuring gains for women are sustainable economically, socially and environmentally. 

In the next 15 years, Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development will be a vaka, a canoe,that takes us towards gender equality.  This will only happen if we have:

  • a navigational map – a strategy
  • a sail plan – a set of actions
  • a crew – the right people to execute the plan; and
  • a tracking device – to monitor and indicate how we are going.

A good analogy needs no explaining.  But I do want to acknowledge Agenda 2030 as the map and the Sustainable Development Goals as the plan.  I want to acknowledge that countries know best who needs to be involved in sailing their vaka, and how best to track progress.

New Zealand is small, so we need to be efficient.  Our approach to achieving the goals and, indeed, achieving gender equality, is to work together and use existing systems and data to implement and track progress:

  • across Government
  • across civil society
  • across the Pacific region; and
  • across all 17 goals. 

As Minister for Women, my priorities align tightly with the goals.  For example:

My focus on supporting more girls and women in education and training is expressed through targets in goal 4.  The newly-expanded Māori and Pasifika Trades Training programme aims to have 5000 new trainees enrolled in apprenticeships by 2019.  I have asked education providers to set targets to ensure good representation of women in this new cohort.   

My priority of utilising women’s skills and growing the economy is reflected in targets for goal 8.  New Zealand’s work on getting more women into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and into Māori and Pasifika Trades Training, should help reduce the gender pay gap.

My work to encourage and develop women leaders, and ensuring women and girls are free from violence, speaks strongly to targets in goal 5.

In December 2015, I released a research report by the Ministry for Women entitled ‘A malu i aiga, e malu fo’i i fafo’.  This report is about how primary prevention of violence is understood by Samoan people in New Zealand.  I have brought copies of the report with me and I welcome your review and discussion on the findings.

Achieving the goals will require a cross-Government effort. New Zealand government agencies are reviewing the goals and their alignment with existing Government priorities. This analysis will inform a discussion on how New Zealand focuses its efforts.

The private sector and civil society can also help reach the goals. Organisations are already considering how their work helps, and are engaging productively with government agencies.

In the Pacific Region, we are working to meet the ambition of the goals.  New Zealand’s Aid Programme sets out 12 priority areas for the Pacific where close to 60 percent of our aid will be spent in the years to 2019. 

Gender equality and women’s empowerment is integrated across those 12 priority areas to ensure we deliver sustainable, inclusive development.  

For example, New Zealand will expand opportunities for economic empowerment, increase women’s participation in decision-making, prevent violence against women, and improve access to health and education services. 

This work is consistent with my national priorities and with the aims of the Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration.

It is this type of alignment of priorities that New Zealand relies on to get things done - nationally, regionally and globally.  Equally, streamlining is an important tactic in our sail plan. 

The next couple of days will give us all an unprecedented opportunity to share, plan and, act upon our commitments to the goals. 

While our discussions will be focused on specific goals and targets, I encourage you also to think broadly about the goals. 

How might success in one area of the goals support momentum in another?

What is working in other countries and how can we share this in ways that are useful?

I would encourage us also to balance the discussion about what we will do, with the discussion about what we will achieve.  It will be useful for us to reflect on our experience in implementing the Millennium Development Goals.  We will then learn about how we can do better over the next 15 years.  

I wish you all the very best for the coming days and for your work beyond this, the 11th Women’s Affairs Ministers’ Meeting. 

Malo faafetai and thank you.