Keep our daughters safe

First published in Hamilton News 14 December 2018

She should have been safe, but she wasn’t.  That’s the message our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern relayed to Grace Millane’s family on Monday as her suspected murderer faced court.  The outpouring of sorrow, grief and guilt from Kiwis led to two candlelight vigils being held in Hamilton and throughout the country on Wednesday, and in true 2018 fashion a torrent of attention on social media focused on how this could happen here.

I found it hard not to think back to the case of Margery Hopegood who unfortunately found a similar fate here in Hamilton in 1992, days after arriving in the country.  It reminds me that she should have been safe, but wasn’t.  We should all be safe, but aren’t.  It’s a reminder to us all that Aotearoa has an secret uglier than our less than 100% pure image – which is our rate of physical and sexual violence towards women.  I feel compelled to discuss this today due to #notallmen trending online.  No, it’s not all men.  But, it’s too many men, and this is one instance where you don’t get the luxury of putting up a wall to deny blame.  We all have to take responsibility for this.

Whenever we read an article about violence towards women there is an element of victim blaming.  Why was she travelling solo?  (How dare she be independent).  We check what she was wearing in her last photo. (Skirts a little too high, Dear).  We give well intentioned warnings to our daughters to, keep a phone with them, not drink too much and stay with friends.  What we don’t do is spend enough time telling our boys and men that they have no right to touch a woman without express permission, that “no means no” and that it’s not okay to “keep trying lest she changes her mind”.  Violence is never justified.  I was pleased to see strangulation and assault towards family members highlighted in the Family violence Act.  We don’t spend enough time telling the #notallmen brigade that it would be more useful for them to be pulling up their friends or family members who act or talk out of line.  Speak up against the violence.  Intervene.

If you find yourself wanting to direct your anger and sorrow anywhere – it should be at changing our culture that is currently accepting violence towards women.  We all have a responsibility to keep women like Grace safe, our daughters safe, my daughter safe.

http://www.communitynews.co.nz/hamilton-news

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Episode #111 Golriz Ghahraman MP

Podcast http://bit.do/episode-111

Golriz Ghahraman, an Iranian-Kiwi became the first refugee to be sworn in as an MP in 2017.  She is a member of the Green Party of Aotearoa and is spokesperson for a raft of portfolios including human rights and corrections.  I really admire the work that she is doing and felt privileged to have the opportunity to speak with her this week.

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I asked for her views on the Grace Millane case, which has stunned the country this week.  We discussed violence towards women and the need to stop tolerating devaluation of women. She gave her advice to women looking at putting themselves forward for governance roles – pointing out that there needs to be a change in culture and systemic changes to make working within those roles possible for those with a family.

We discussed human rights, in terms of the right to vote, which Golriz is advocating we return for prisoners; the UN migration pact and the CPTPPA.

Listen now.  http://bit.do/episode-111

 

Situation vacant: Female city councillor

Published first in Hamilton News 30 November 2018

Situation Vacant: Hamilton City Councillor.  Fixed term role starts October 2019.  Remuneration starts at $71,638.  Job description:  To represent and lead the community, set policies, make regulatory decisions and review council performance.  Preference: Female.

Women hold a mere 25% of the seats in our current city council.  Did you notice?  Probably not.  We’ve become used to our local government lacking diversity in gender, ethnicity and socio-economic background.  But, imagine how different the dynamics and decision-making process of a council that truly represented our city would be.  I’m not asking for quotas to achieve diversity, we don’t need them – but we do need to support more women to put their name forward for next year’s local elections.  Will you join me?

Are we lacking strong female community leaders?  Are we short on ambitious, strategic professional women?  Would Mums with young families prefer to stay in the home?  Heck no, definitely not and no thanks.

The under-representation of women in our council was the topic of a kōrero I initiated last week.  I was interested in barriers to women standing and what other women could offer them to help.  The experiences of women are different, but in general we are reluctant to stand for family reasons, financial reasons and because, rather sadly we don’t back ourselves enough.  Women ponder over a longer set of criteria than males before considering themselves ‘qualified’ enough to stand.  Basically, women don’t rate themselves as highly as a similarly or even lesser ‘qualified’ male would. Go figure.

The shining beacon of hope from that kōrero was that a group of strong, capable and passionate women have offered experience, skill, creativity and knowledge to support other women to stand next year.  This is exciting, encouraging and could be transformational for how public service looks going forward.

So today, I’m asking the women of Kirikiriroa Hamilton to consider themselves worthy of representing our city and to know that there is support for them to do this.  If it’s not your cup of tea, make sure you shoulder tap an inspirational wāhine to put themselves forward and then join us in supporting them to succeed.

Episode #108 – Waikato Women’s Fund and Femininera

 
9min “So much for the summer” from Cheshire Grimm
15:24m Melissa about Waikato Women’s Fund
23:07m “Dedicated” from The Changing Same
27:15m XXSSY about Femininera
38:02m “Ataraxia” from XXSSY
41:45m My Top 5 ish local events for the week
49m “Let the games begin” The Recently Deceived
54:21m “Thompson is in trouble” The Scones.
 
Huge thanks again to Hamilton Taxi’s the sponsor of this Free FM show.
 

Episode #106 – A sustainable path to politics – Paula Southgate

Listen to this week’s podcast.

6m “One eye open” – Albi & The Wolves
10m INTERVIEW with Paula Southgate Hamilton City
28:30m “It ain’t easy” Albi & The Wolves
30:45m INTERVIEW continued
48:32m “Don’t blink” Cartoon Villain
50:30m Local events
54.30m “Mayday” The Recently Deceived

We’re joined by Hamilton East City Councillor, and current chair of the Community services and environment committee Paula Southgate Hamilton City  She shares her journey from kindergarten committee to Hamilton City Councillor – as we talk about some of the barriers to entering politics when you have a young family.

She explains what the ‘Local indigenous biodiversity pilot’ is and why she’s ‘speaking for the bats’.  Sometimes its hard to reconcile growth of cities with environmental protection – and this is a current concern with the plans for Peacocke.  It seems the best way to ensure that the environment is not forgotten is to make sure the Councillors know it is a priority for you.  Paula was with the Waikato Regional Council for 15 years so is well versed in environmental issues – which is a win for us as she understands the interconnections.

We discuss how we might improve feedback to council, and encourage more residents to have their say on the issues.   She shared advice on encouraging some of the skilled and passionate leaders in our community to campaign for a seat at the council table next year.  (Interview starts at 10min).

Podcast link here. 

So, have you thought about running in next year’s local elections yet?

*Coffee kōrero happening on Thursday the 22nd for potential female candidates and / or supporters.  Please get in touch with me directly for more information*

I don’t know about you, but there are times that I can’t even go to the toilet without someone needing something.  I can be interrupted mid-shower because someone’s hungry. (The someone is a 7 year old daughter by the way).  So is it any wonder pursuing goals outside the house is put aside until our children are old enough to at least babysit themselves?  I’ve been thinking a lot about why we have so few local female political leaders.  25% in Hamilton City Council.  20% of our countries Mayors.  I’ve talked to two of our city councillors about it it – and despite seeing all the reasons why we aren’t better represented, there is a way forward.

In the lead up to the 2016 local elections I was set on running as a Hamilton West Councillor.  I was sure I could do it if I worked hard enough.  I was sure I could offer a viewpoint I felt they needed in there, and I felt I had enough support form my husband to go through with the campaign.  But, that didn’t stop me backing out days before filling in a nomination form.  I just couldn’t do it.  I made excuses like, I can’t afford to do this (it’s easier to boost name recognition when you have money), Public speaking is terrifying.  I don’t want people looking at me all the time.  I really really struggled to do an elevator pitch on why someone should vote for me.  The person I had to be in campaign mode, when I’m naturally self deprecating and introverted is so far outside my comfort zone that it was causing anxiety.  I felt that so many people like myself, were switched off to local politics, that I wouldn’t have the base of voters needed to get in.  Why put myself through it?  Why put my family through it?

(Add >> quick acknowledgement that politics can be hard on the families of male councillors too).

And, I was extremely disappointed at the outcome of the 2016 elections.  The candidates I thought would be a community focused, progressive, environmentally focused and status-quo changing candidates weren’t elected.  Instead we have a conservative – Council which lacks diversity on many fronts.  Including females around the table.  Did I regret not standing?  No.

Is there any wonder women don’t run for council when we have less financial resources, can’t justify time away from the family and under-value our own skills and experience.

We’ve heard regular complaints about conduct in the chamber.  Slurs, disrespect, lewd jokes and bad language.  Not everyone wants to hear that all day.  That’s not to mention the tight 5, group think, old boy’s club, exclusion and political jestering that we associate with being in the game.

However, earlier I mentioned that there is a way forward, and it starts now.  Back in 2016 when I considered running as a candidate, I approached Angela O’Leary to talk about “the job”.  What it entails, and why campaigning is like.  She shared her background into the role and the support that exists for women in politics.  She has mentioned a willingness to mentor others to the role.  (She’s been a Hamilton city councillor for four terms so knows the job).  Last month she reinforced the need for us to shoulder tap people we know, to consider standing in next years election.  (Link to My most recent interview with Angela).

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These messages were reinforced again yesterday when I spoke to Paula Southgate.  She discussed her background to entering the governance roles she has had including 15 years at the Waikato Regional Council.  I felt that her advice about women with young families, taking on school board roles and kindy committees to gain helpful experience was a practical step for those who might be interested in the future. Of course governance isn’t the only pathway.  However she too mentioned being willing to mentor someone.  We discussed the calibre of existing female leaders in our city, and the need for everyone to ‘shoulder tap’ someone we think would represent the city well.  (Link to My most recent interview with Paula).

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There will be conduct issues, though no doubt, they will decrease as more females enter the arena.  There will be the need to turn a blind eye to criticism about needing to leave a meeting at 5pm.  There will be no more midnight meetings.  That’s not good for anyone.

So we have two experienced leaders interested in mentoring females into the role.  We have the talent already out in our community  It’s time to have those conversations with our friends, whanau and networks, and break down the barriers so that in 2019 we can vote in a more representative council.

Heads up to SAVE THE DATE for the evening of International Women’s Day 2019, for an evening dedicated to celebrating great leaders and supporting more.

**Note.  This piece stands separate to many many other conversations that need to be had if we are genuinely wanting a representative democracy.  It doesn’t include voting decisions, ethnic representation and doesn’t include the evidence showing the benefits of diversity in decision making. I’m not telling you to vote for women, because they are women.  I’m not implying they make better decisions – I’m suggesting to empower everyone to feel valued in society they have to feel they can participate.  Today’s conversation was based on barriers to women standing.  Next time, will be a different focus.  Feel free to contribute now.  I think ultimately we want the same – and that is to influence the world around us positively – in all the flavours that that might entail.