Turning of the Tide International Women’s Day Cocktail Event

Speech given by the Governor-General, Dame Patsy Reddy at a fundraising event for Otara Blue Light's Turning of the Tide initiative at The Sugar Club in Auckland.
8 Mar 2017


Haere mai nga tuāhine,

nga wāhine rongonui,

ki te whakanui,

i tenei rā mahi moni,

mo Otara

Tena koutou, tena koutou tena koutou katoa

 Welcome to our sisters, esteemed and well-known women who have come to celebrate this fund-raising event for Otara.  By working together we are able to complete any task set.  Tena koutou, tena koutou tena koutou katoa

 Thank you for inviting me here this evening. It’s a pleasure to be able to celebrate International Women’s Day in such a striking venue – one that I feel at home in - and support a worthy cause at the same time.

 International Women’s Day 2017 may be drawing to a close in New Zealand, but elsewhere in the world people will just be starting their Women’s Day activities.

It’s a world-wide day of recognition and celebration of the social, cultural and political achievements of women – one that is marked in many ways.

I was interested to discover that in some countries, International Women’s Day is an official holiday. In other places, it’s treated a little like Mothers’ Day or Valentine’s Day with gifts of chocolates and flowers.

 Here in New Zealand we mark the day by acknowledging the contribution women have made in shaping our society. We also use it as a platform to continue the conversation around diversity and equality.

 We can be proud of New Zealand’s top 10 placing in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index. The index tracks the relative gaps between men and women in four main areas – health, education, the economy and politics. Our ninth placing makes us one of the most gender-equal countries in the world, more so than the UK, USA, Australia and Canada. Yet the gender pay gap stubbornly remains at 12%.

The point of closing the gender gap is to unlock the full potential of women – “one half of humanity” as the World Economic Forum puts it. However it’s unlikely that any of us will see gender parity in our lifetime. At the current rate of change, a young girl celebrating her fifth birthday today would have to live to 174 years old to experience a truly equal world.[1]  New Zealand is a great place for women but there is still much work to be done in the area of gender equality in this country. 

We talk about unleashing the potential of women and in a way, that’s why we’re here this evening. Otara Blue Light, working with the New Zealand Police and members of the Otara community, is seeking to unlock the potential of young Māori women. 

We know that our teenagers are keen to get out and experience everything life has to offer but often they don’t have the skills or the maturity to make great decisions. It’s particularly hard when they don’t have role models or mentors to model themselves on. 

The teenage years are a time of learning and experimentation but the results of that process aren’t always good. It’s a shame when great kids with a lot to offer get sucked into petty crime or anti-social behaviour. Bad decisions can have unfortunate ramifications for a young person’s future. 

That’s why initiatives like this one are so valuable. Targeted at young Māori women aged between 12 and 16, the project offers young offenders and at-risk teens support, inspiration and new experiences in the form of weekend camps. Strongly rooted in the Otara community, it’s about exposing these young women to positive influences, enabling change and developing a sense of self-worth. 

Te Huringa o Te Tai o Nga Wahine translates as turning the tide for girls. The imagery of turning someone around rather than allowing them to flounder and be lost from view is a powerful one. Our young women are a precious part of our community and there is a need to nurture them, help them develop and grow into fine adults. 

I’ve spoken at a number of other International Women’s day events today and one of the things I’ve been keen to stress is the need for all of us to work together to support women.  By working together, women have helped drive through political and societal reforms. Women have also supported and mentored each other as we strive towards more gender-equal workplaces. We can achieve a lot by working together. 

We can also do a lot by making ourselves available to others. Later this evening, I understand you will be asked to donate the gift of time to this initiative. What a wonderful idea. By paying attention to someone we validate their existence. By sharing our stories with them, we make ourselves a positive role model. We all have skills, talents and life experiences that are worth sharing with others. All it takes is a little bit of time. 

Author Art Buchwald said ‘the best things in life aren’t things,” and he’s right. It’s experience, it’s aroha, it’s care and compassion for others. The personal nature of the support each of you can give to this project is worth more than money or what money can buy. 

I wish everyone involved with Te Huringa O Te Tai O Nga Wahine all the best for the future. I look forward to hearing more about your success. 

Kia ora huihui tātou katoa




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