International Women’s Day

womens rightsThis week we celebrated International Women’s Day. It’s a time to celebrate the achievements of women all around the world.  It’s also a time to continue to ensure that all women are afforded dignity and respect as people made in the image of God. 

Unfortunately in many parts of the world human rights are still not upheld and women are often the victims of such failures. In many countries around the world access to property, education and health services are not available on an equal basis. So what can we do about this?  Well in the Pacific region charities like Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand are helping women in Timor Leste to develop their own businesses and to receive training in marketing and business planning so that they have greater economic empowerment.  You can donate to the work for women and children through Caritas at www.caritas.org.nz

However, the challenges are also closer to home. In New Zealand, Women’s suffrage was granted after about two decades of campaigning throughout New Zealand, by women who included Kate Sheppard and Mary Ann Müller. The New Zealand branch of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union led by Anne Ward was particularly instrumental in the campaign. Influenced by the American branch of the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement the movement argued that women could bring morality into democratic politics.  Opponents argued instead that politics was outside women’s ‘natural sphere’ of the home and family. Suffrage advocates countered that allowing women to vote would encourage policies which protected and nurtured families.  Eventually they succeeded. In 1893 New Zealand became the first country in the world to give women the right to vote. This one of the great achievements of the movement for human equality which is rightly be celebrated during International Women’s Day. 

But there is still work to be done if we support equality. Many female workers in New Zealand work in occupations that are more than 80% female and these female-dominated occupations tend to be lower paid. Women are under-represented in higher-level jobs.  The gender pay gap is a high level indicator of the difference between women and men’s earnings. Factors that contribute to the gender pay gap are:

  • the jobs women do: while there are some notable exceptions in New Zealand today, women are more likely to be clustered in a narrow range of occupations and at the bottom or middle of an organisation. Women remain underrepresented in many professions including engineering, law, information Technology and business management in large Companies.
  • the value put on women’s jobs: the skills and knowledge that women contribute in female-dominated occupations may not be recognised or valued appropriately in comparison to other jobs
  • work arrangements and caring responsibilities: more women combine primary care giving with part-time work, which tends to be more readily available in lower paid occupations and positions.

This needs to change so that the contributions of women to a cohesive and democratic society are valued as much as those of their male counterparts. But I would argue too that it needs to go further than simply ensuring that women get appointed to demanding high paid jobs on the same basis as men do today. Perhaps its also time to look at the whole nature of work and the way workplaces operate. Perhaps the underlying capitalist values of workplaces need to move away from “efficiency” and “profit above all” – towards an environment that promotes care for people and welcomes the contribution that each person makes – regardless of gender.

“I raise up my voice – not so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard. We cannot succeed when half of us are held back.”  – Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani women’s activist and youngest Nobel Prize laureate

Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”
– Mother Teresa, Nobel Peace Prize laureate

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Canada – a top country

Canada has the best reputation of any of the 55 countries included in a 2017 ranking of the world’s most reputable countries. Over the course of the past six years, Canada has finished in first place four times and in second place twice, last year to Sweden and in 2014 to Switzerland. The United States…

via Canada Tops Country Reputation Rankings; US Finishes 38th — 24/7 Wall St.

J.D. Vance: Why Elites Didn’t See the White Working Class Coming — TIME

After Donald Trump became President-elect of the United States in a surprise outcome—largely accounted to the strong support he received from white working-class voters (winning two of every three white voters with no college education, according to exit polls)—TIME spoke with J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy, a memoir and analysis of the social group’s…

via J.D. Vance: Why Elites Didn’t See the White Working Class Coming — TIME

Hillary Clinton’s classy concession speech

h-clinton

I don’t always agree with her policies but to give credit where its due she ran a determined and energetic campaign. In defeat she demonstrated real class. The last part of her concession speech read as follows:

“I still believe as deeply as I ever have that if we stand together and work together with respect for our differences, strength in our convictions and love for this nation, our best days are still ahead of us.

Because, you know, I believe we are stronger together and we will go forward together. And you should never ever regret fighting for that.

Scripture tells us: Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

So my friends, let us have faith in each other. Let us not grow weary. Let us not lose heart. For there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do.

I am incredibly honoured and grateful to have had this chance to represent all of you in this consequential election. May God bless you and may God bless the United states of America.” – Hillary Clinton (2016)

Bernie Sanders Says Donald Trump ‘Tapped Into the Anger of a Declining Middle Class’ — TIME

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders finally commented on Donald Trump’s election victory, saying “Trump tapped into the anger of a declining middle class that is sick and tired of establishment economics, establishment politics and establishment media.” Sanders echoed his own presidential campaign’s message by noting that American people are “tired of working longer hours for lower…

via Bernie Sanders Says Donald Trump ‘Tapped Into the Anger of a Declining Middle Class’ — TIME

Greens refuse to congratulate winner of US Presidential election

The leftist Greens have refused to adopt the convention of congratulating the winner of elections in other countries – even when you disagree with their views. As part of the international community New Zealand has developed a reputation for participation and making its views known through diplomatic channels. Not so the Greens. They didn’t get the result they wanted so they are going to snub the new US President.  Your NZ blog reports as follows:

“In Parliament today on behalf of the Prime Minister Steven Joyce moved a motion in support of the election of the President of the United States. Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I move, That the House convey its congratulations to President-elect Donald Trump on his election as the next President of the United States, and to Vice-President-elect […]

via Greens versus Donald Trump — Your NZ

Brexit may have a silverlining

brexit image The recent decision by UK voters to leave the EU was greeted with alarm by some financial market analysts and those who had invested heavily in EU business arrangements. It also got on the nerves of those who enjoyed the privilege of holding EU passports for travel.  There have also been some ugly incidents from those who read Brexit as a licence to unleash latent racist attitudes.  Such incidents were rightly condemned. But despite the gloom-filled media prophecies there may be some good news amidst all of this.

First leaving the EU does not physically move Britain further away from the shores of Brittany or Scandanavia. If it made good economic sense to trade with the UK before Brexit then it is likely to still do so after the UK formally leaves the constraints of the EU.

Second, the Euro currency was rapidly becoming bogged down in unsustainable levels of debt. A report from 2013 (Mills, John 2013)  showed remarkable prescience regarding the debt levels of the Eurozone. The UK was one of those debtor nations digging itself deeper into debt with each passing year.

Third, freedom is an important value in British culture. Being free of EU trade restrictions will allow the UK to negotiate new trading arrangements with the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region. India has recently expressed interest in making such arrangements. Some time out of the EU will also enable the UK to take stock of its own economic future and to plan ahead for the sort of society and economy it wants to build.

The divisions in British society were exposed by Brexit. The establishment classes did not get their way despite a well-funded Remain campaign. Those British cities and regions which missed out on the big promises of globalisation and free trade during the last 30 years used the Brexit referendum as a means of sending a signal to Westminster. The offshoring of British industry, unemployment, growing balance of payments difficulties and dissatisfaction with immigration were all contributing factors.

Fundamentally the EU experiment was based on a “top-down” model that relied on un-elected and largely unaccountable Brussels officials making decisions about what was best for ordinary citizens in the UK, France and other member states. This was a recipe for deep-seated problems which have now surfaced.

I’d like to see European relations strengthened. But this needs to be done in a way that builds genuine friendship and mutual support between European citizens. Foisting unpopular, centralised decisions on an unwilling populace was never going to work in the long run. The guiding principle needs to be one of subsidiarity – making decisions at the most appropriate level. That includes increased democratic participation in local, regional, national, European and international decision making.  The Brexit decision has been made. The challenge now is to respect the wishes of the public and for political leaders to present a vision for Britain’s future and to chart a course towards that future over the next ten years.