This year, on September 23, New Zealand will vote on who gets to lead the country for the next three years. We've watched the unbelievable political events in the US and the UK, and now it's our turn. If there's anything that we can take from the wild currents of world politics it's that young people have to get out there and vote. Because the politicians elected to Parliament are the ones who will make important decisions about our future. But in amongst the spin and the bluster, it can be hard to know exactly who to vote for. Who stands for what? Who stands against what? Who cares about the issues that are important to you?
We get it.
So, in the lead-up to the election, Villainesse has reached out to politicians from all of the parties currently in Parliament, asking them why they think they deserve the vote of young women. In our 2017 election series, 'The Pitch', we've asked politicians to make their case to you so that when you go to the ballot box you'll know exactly where they stand.
Next in the series, we have Louisa Wall of the Labour Party. Here's her pitch to you.
Give us the elevator pitch: Why should young women vote for you?
First, young women who will be 18 years on 23 September need to be enrolled so they can vote. Then they must decide to exercise their vote and who they will vote for.
Why Labour, why Louisa? As my parents taught me, judge people on what they do. My actions this term that may be of interest to young women are -
After talking to the Principal of a high school in my electorate and to young women struggling to afford sanitary products whilst studying at university, I was told they were either using unhygienic products, staying home from school when they were menstruating or missing out on meals and public transport to buy sanitary products. To address this issue, I collaborated with Countdown and the Salvation Army to create a "Women's Hygiene Bundle" within ‘The Foodbank Project’, where donors are encouraged to contribute a Bundle on a monthly basis so these can be distributed by the Salvation Army to those in need, including our high schools. I've also purchased menstrual cups as a more environmentally sustainable and economically viable option and distributed these to university students to gauge their opinion of this product. This research continues.With other donors I’ve purchased a sanitary pad making machine to help the homeless as identified by “Feel Good Period” a social enterprise from the University of Auckland to make sanitary pads and to distribute these to the homeless and other women in need.
I am Co-Chair of the cross-party Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians and we have committed to a legislative reform programme to help "End Child Brides". This has resulted in submissions to the Justice and Electoral select committee about the issue of coercion to marry in New Zealand. Our position is that the Family Court, not parents, should be the consenting entity for the on average 80, 16-17 year olds who marry every year.
I am proud to be a cis woman, Tangata Whenua, takatapui, former Silver Fern and Black Fern, member of E Tu Union, the New Zealand Labour Party and proud representative of Manurewa and we would appreciate your vote!
If you are elected, what - if anything - will you do to close the gender pay gap?
These are the latest gender pay gap statistics released by the Coalition for Equal Value, Equal Pay (CEVEP) -
All men and all women - 13.6% difference
All men and Pakeha women 10.5% difference
All men and Maori Women 23% difference
All men and Pacific Women 28.5% difference
All men and Asian Women 20% difference.
In addition to earning less than men on average, Women in New Zealand are under-represented in workplace leadership roles so there is a lot of work to be done to address the gender pay gap and equal employment opportunities (EEO) in our workplaces. We also need to recognise the ethnic component to the gender pay gap with Maori and Pacific women disproportionately disadvantaged. The key to addressing this issue is greater transparency and a requirement of employers to publish their gender pay gap because it highlights the specific challenges and necessitates action that drives change. Our Labour team is committed to bringing about change. We will work to strengthen legislation and policy to address the gender pay gap and to promote EEO in our workplaces and on our boards. We are committed to paid parental leave and the provision of flexible working arrangements to allow women to participate fully in society.
What economic benefits will you deliver for young women?
Labour is committed to developing a productive and innovative economy that will benefit all New Zealanders.
We will manage finances prudently and will make changes to our tax system so that all New Zealanders have enough resources to reduce income inequality and to have access to public services. This will help us to tackle unfairness and remove the growing gap between rich and poor and reduce the rate of child poverty in our country.
We will continue with our commitment to measures to reduce the gender pay gap, so that women receive equal pay for equal work and I will do all I can to ensure our goals are met.
All working families should receive a Living Wage that will allow them to fully participate in community activities and I am committed to achieving this goal in partnership with our unions and progressive employers.
We recognise the importance of education and training to economic development and we will subsidise tertiary education and provide three years of free education for every New Zealander to encourage life-long learning.
Our housing policy will ensure that housing market speculation does not drive property prices out of reach of ordinary New Zealanders, in particular our young people who are increasingly finding it difficult to purchase their first home and to provide sufficient state and social housing to meet the need.
How will you combat violence against women (including domestic violence)?
Everyone has the right to be free from violence and the violence that is occurring in our families and communities is a violation of basic human rights.
Our Labour team will develop policy in consultation with key stakeholders and based on best practice models to address violence and in particular family violence.
We will also identify those groups in our society with barriers to accessing support and develop programmes more suited to their needs, so that we can all learn that violence and sexual harassment is unacceptable and where to go for help and support.
Labour recognises there are systemic issues which contribute to our experiences of violence. Low income, poor education, poor housing, transience, alcohol and substance abuse and stress in individuals and families all contribute to increased rates of violence. So too do attitudes and beliefs about the status of women. Labour will ensure that all government agencies that should contribute to decreasing rates of violence are engaged collectively to do so. It will increase support for community networks and collaborative approaches to reducing violence and increase support of agencies that work in early intervention and prevention. Most importantly it will support the children who witness and experience violence to recover from the trauma of those experiences, giving them the best chance to recover and break the cycle.
What will you do to reduce rates of sexual violence and improve the way that the justice system deals with crimes of sexual violence?
I am very concerned about the rate of sexual violence in New Zealand and the lack of justice available to most survivors.
As a team, we will address the issue of sexual violence with a variety of measures. We will develop prevention strategies that will be used to confront dominant cultural norms and attitudes that make sexual violence possible and will promote positive behaviour and ways of relating to prevent sexual violence.
Of particular concern is the fact that our youth are watching more sexual violence and this has become the “new normal”, with young people accessing virtually any content available on their social media devices. A recent publication ‘The Young New Zealanders Viewing Sexual Violence’ report reveals that our youth are accessing a wide range of content online, including restricted games, movies and pornography. The young people interviewed felt that the main way they were learning about sexual violence was from the media and that this had an impact on themselves and others, and how different genders view each other in relation to sexual violence. According to the latest National Council of Women circular, 15-24 year olds are the most at risk age group for physical, sexual or psychological violence from current or ex partners. In fact, twenty per cent of female and nine per cent of male secondary school students stated they have been forced into unwanted sexual activity in the previous year. Clearly we need to address this issue by providing better education for our young people to teach them to question what they see in the media and for sexual violence programmes that include information about respectful relationships, sex and sexual violence in the media.
We will undertake reforms that will improve the justice system’s approach to sexual violence; educate communities on how to report sexual violence and about support available and create a well-funded support network for survivors of sexual violence to support short and long term needs.
Where do you stand on abortion legislation? Would you like to see it changed? If so, what changes would you make?
Abortion is a conscience issue for Labour MPs, but we do support calls for the current 40 year old abortion law to be modernised. Our Labour policy is to have the issue reviewed by the Law Commission, before committing to legislative changes.
I believe that women should have a choice available to them and that abortion should not be viewed as a crime. Therefore I absolutely support a review of the current legislation with the expertise of the law commission to guide us through this process.
How will you ensure that New Zealand’s environment is protected for future generations?
As Maori we are kaitiaki of the environment for future generations. Our children should enjoy the results of our guardianship in preserving our environment. Our environment has an intrinsic value and our economy is also influenced by us conserving and enhancing our country’s environmental assets, so it is vital that we preserve and sustain our environment for future generations.
Labour’s vision for the preservation of our environment includes legal and governance arrangements that will help us achieve our environmental objectives.
We will ensure that communities are given the opportunity to participate in meaningful consultation regarding resource management decision making, so that decisions are made that take into account the unique views, values and environmental issues facing individual communities. We will work collaboratively will local government, hapū and iwi, the private sector and the community to develop environmentally sound solutions.
Resource management legislation will be updated to include environmental protection, incentives to ensure development occurs in a sustainable manner and the promotion of high quality urban design.
Other priorities include honouring our commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through good science and responsible behaviour; prioritising the development of technologies to move away from the use of fossil fuels; the conservation of our endangered species and improving our water quality and access to clean water, including how it is managed and who has the right to harvest it.
In your opinion, what is the role of te Tiriti o Waitangi in modern-day Aotearoa?
Te Tiriti o Waitangi has a very important role in our modern-day Aotearoa. As the founding document of our country, it affirms Māori as Tāngata Whenua of New Zealand and establishes a governance framework for our country, guarantees existing rights of Tāngata Whenua and recognition of equal rights for all.
The core values at the heart of the Treaty are reflected in the values that lie at the heart of Labour's commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Values such as kotahitanga – unity and a common purpose; manaakitanga – caring and the spirit of reciprocity; whakawhanaungtanga – family ties and connectedness and kaitiakitanga – guardianship and sustainability. We believe in and honour these core values and they form the foundation of the relationship between Labour and Tāngata Whenua.
We recognise that the Crown has in the past not always honoured Te Tiriti o Waitangi and we are committed to providing redress to Tāngata Whenua for breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi and building on the statutory acknowledgements of hapū and iwi as governors on some of our conservation, environmental and local government boards as partners in the management of our natural resources and partners in future development opportunities.
Are you concerned about rising levels of inequality in New Zealand? If so, what would you do to close the gap?
I am very concerned about the rising levels of inequality in New Zealand. I am strongly committed to ensuring that everyone will be included, able to have their basic needs met, reach their potential and make a worthy contribution to our society.
I believe that our Labour team can close the gap by taking measures such as providing healthy, affordable housing and supporting enforceable standards for rental housing; improving access to affordable, high quality health care; ensuring there is access to subsidised childcare; assisting children from low income families into education; a living income for working families and ensuring there is security of income for our older New Zealanders.
We are committed to supporting families facing the costs of raising children and banishing child poverty. Our policies include early intervention for vulnerable children; addressing labour market issues; facilitating access to early childhood education; providing an adequate income and helping families to access appropriate healthcare and housing.
Do you think that New Zealand’s sexuality education system is working? If not, what would you do to change it?
The current curriculum guidelines for sexuality education are wide and every school can determine what they will teach, or what they deem appropriate to teach.
This means that schools may choose to leave out some of the more critical themes of sexuality education, such as gender identity and sexual orientation, sexually transmitted diseases and how they are transmitted and the impacts of pornography and sexual abuse, because the schools and their communities don’t think they are appropriate to discuss with certain age groups.
Curriculum guidelines for sexuality education should be prescriptive and defined so that these important aspects are covered.
What will you do to combat New Zealand’s high rate of youth suicide?
New Zealand’s mental health system is in crisis – funding has not kept up with demand. We have an over-stretched, exhausted work force that doesn’t have sufficient resources to provide the support patients need. Sadly, this means that many people with mental illness, including our young people, are missing out on the support they so desperately need. Youthline has noted that calls from 150 young people a week are not being answered because they do not have the resources to help them.
We will make it a priority to fix the mental health system that is failing so many of our young people. We will ensure our prevention helplines are adequately resourced to meet demand.
We will undertake a comprehensive review of mental health and addiction services to identify the gaps.
There will be nurses in every secondary school who can provide help early on for teenagers with problems and refer them to appropriate mental health services.
We will support a greater public understanding of mental illness and ensure that our young people have access to the support and services they need when they have mental health problems. We will support policies for our youth that will seek to reduce bullying, self-harm and suicide by fostering inclusion through support groups and encouraging attitude change.
Extra funding for mental health will ensure that the currently unacceptable waiting times for treatment are reduced significantly.
Last chance: Is there anything else you’d like to say to young female voters?
"I am woman hear me roar" – we are strong and we have the capacity to identify issues and to drive the change required to meet our needs.
It's your time to highlight the issues of relevance to you and your peers. To be inspired by one another, to be passionate and motivated to act when you see or experience things that are not just or right. Your voice matters – only you can use it. Don't be afraid. The sisterhood is there to support and guide you.Support Villainesse