International Women’s Day Speech

National President Bokyong Mun was invited to give a speech at the International Women’s Day lunch, hosted in Wellington on the 8 March 2018. Read below for the speech that she presented, and the challenge that she leaves us all!:

“International Women’s Day is an opportunity for us all to celebrate the improvements and great lengths that we have achieved all over the world in stride for gender equality and the empowerment of women. However it also serves as a reminder – a reminder of the challenges and issues that women still face everywhere they go.

But I want to ask, what are the different challenges that women face today? What does it really mean for women to be empowered, and what does this mean in the 2018 context of Aotearoa New Zealand? To me my biggest frustration is that the perspective and experiences of being a woman are often overlooked when considering women’s issues in New Zealand.

My parents immigrated from South Korea and I was lucky enough to be born on the North Shore in Auckland here in New Zealand. I however grew up in a small town called Balclutha, about an hour away from Dunedin surrounded by a farming community and a beautiful river for jumping into on summer days.

The reality is that our identity is not only made up of our gender, but also our ethnicity, cultural background, upbringing and experiences that we have had. Being a woman means something different to every single one of us.

Bokyong Mun (UN Youth National President) with President of the United Nations Association of NZ, Joy Dunseath

 

To me, women empowerment means much more than the need to bridge the gender pay gap, or the right for me to breastfeed in public, although these are all very important things. To me it means not facing discrimination from law firms because I don’t have blonde hair, as well as not having my worth judged on my looks to begin with. It means that I am able to talk to my mother freely in public in Korean without people telling us to go home, and not have people tell me that I am not beautiful because of the size of my eyes. It means people no longer expecting me to behave a certain way, just because that is how Asian women are portrayed to be in popular culture.

New Zealand is my home, however too often people forget how rich and diverse our multicultural country is. People assume that I didn’t feel pride when we won the Rugby World Cup in 2011, or that I didn’t cry because it was my neighbour’s homes that had been devastated by the Canterbury Earthquakes. To me, International Women’s Day is important because it gives me the chance to reflect on what it means to be me – a woman that makes up a part of the multicultural society that is Aotearoa New Zealand today.  

Through my role in United Nations Youth, I have met hundreds of young New Zealanders, who all have a different, but equally valuable definition of what it means to be a woman. For many youth today, conflicts and confusion around our identity plays a big part in our daily lives. But it is through hearing these stories of my peers that I have also learnt not to be ashamed of my identity, to strive for my aspirations, and realise that it is the differences among us that make us stronger as a collective.”

International Women’s Day

In a world first, New Zealand women won the right to vote in parliamentary elections in 1893. Since then, the role women play in society across the world has evolved dramatically, with women entering academia, the workforce and taking control of their own destinies in a way which was previously impossible.

In 2017, New Zealand voted in its third female Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, who will inspire a generation of young women. However, the simple fact of having a high-achieving, confident and respected woman in a top leadership position can too easily overshadow the multitude of issues which women face across the globe. The gender pay gap, gender-based violence, discrimination, workplace harassment and child marriage are among a plethora of challenges which women face every day. While these issues remain present in developed countries such as New Zealand, they are often felt more sharply by women with access to fewer resources, limited education, or who live without basic rights and protections. Therefore, on International Women’s Day, it is important to highlight the monumental achievements of some lesser-known women’s rights activists and leaders, who campaign for rights and freedoms for women, just as Kate Sheppard fought for New Zealand women’s right to vote in the 1890s.

 

Prime Minister Jacinda Adern and suffragette Kate Sheppard- Image from stuff.co.nz

 

Across Iran, women risk prosecution, fines and imprisonment by violating the state’s gender-based dress codes in protest. In the United States of America and across the world, the #metoo movement has brought to light the extent of sexual violence and harassment which continues to permeate developed societies in the 21st Century, affecting even the most powerful and privileged of women. In 2011, a woman was arrested for doing something which millions of women across the globe do every day without incident. Manal al-Sharif was arrested for driving a car, which violated Saudi Arabia’s strict gender norms. She too began a social media movement, which brought the laws restricting women’s freedoms in Saudi Arabia to the forefront of the world’s minds. It is a reminder that there is still a huge amount of work to be done before gender parity can be achieved.

When women in the 1800s campaigned for the right to vote, it must have seemed like an impossible task. For al-Sharif and many other human rights activists like her, trying to improve women’s rights in Saudi Arabia may have felt futile. However, in 2017, the Saudi King announced that, from mid-2018, Saudi women would be granted driver licences and be able to legally drive, a victory for al-Sharif and others like her, who fought for what they believed in. International Women’s Day provides the opportunity for young people to examine their place in society and the remarkable achievements of their predecessors, who played such a vital role in shaping the societies we live in. 

 

 

By Grace Thurlow

#BeBoldForChange | International Women’s Day

What is it to be bold, as a woman?

If you consider the comments of any internet article about women, the mere fact of us writing this post is bold. It’s well documented that women who are outspoken in their feminism and their advocacy for equality are targeted for the worst sorts of threats. For many women, it’s bold to go to school, to take up arms and fight, to practice medicine, to practice religion freely.

Some people want to tell you that we don’t need change. That the problems women suffer don’t exist, or we’re being too emotional and sensitive

Some days, it feels bold just to exist as a woman, even in New Zealand. A Facebook friend likes a meme about hitting women or a joke about rape. You read the news, and another article covering a domestic violence court case sits next to another article about female reproductive legislation. You’re at work, where you can’t escape and the customer is always right, and men twice, three times your age take your forced smile as an invitation. It can be bold to wear a singlet and shorts on an oppressively hot day because that leaves you open to cat-calling. It’s bold to walk down the street in the dark, to go places alone. It’s definitely bold to take part in protest and activism like the recently held women’s marches against President Trump.

Some people want to tell you that we don’t need change. That the problems women suffer don’t exist, or we’re being too emotional and sensitive, or that our problems don’t matter because women in other countries have it worse. “New Zealand doesn’t have pay inequity” they cry, ignoring the quantitative evidence produced by the NZ Human Rights Commission. “What about International Men’s Day?” they whine, ignoring the fact that men are recognised and prioritised over women every day in jobs, in sports, in education. “I would love it if a girl complimented me on the street” they smirk, ignoring the intimidation implicit in cat-calling and the fact that it often turns into verbal abuse or worse.

These people are wrong. Change is necessary, and we need to be bold to make that change. Revolution is messy, but it’s how we’ve come as far as we have – the suffragettes were bold, and I for one am grateful every day that I have the right to vote and let my voice be heard. Everything I have is because of women who have been bold and affected change because of that, including within my own family.

We have to be bold to ask for change, to achieve change, and to withstand the tide of people who do not want change.

The change starts with us. It takes one person, group or country to be a catalyst towards change. #BeBoldForChange

The 8th of March is International Women’s Day, where the world comes together to celebrate women from the past, present and the future. This year’s theme is ‘Be Bold for Change’. The main purpose of this day is two-fold: to celebrate and appreciate the achievements and fights that women in our history have contributed in order to allow the women of today to have the lives that they do, and to encourage, raise awareness and further fight for the rights of women to reach the ultimate goal of gender equality.

Women have struggled and fought to have the same rights and opportunities at life as men. Complete equality is yet to happen on an international scale. However, us women have also come a long way since we began our fight towards equality in the 1900s and that is what we want to celebrate today.

This is a day to pay tribute to all the women in the world, a day to appreciate our achievements, our efforts and our willpower to fight until we achieve equality. In New Zealand, we are proud to be the first country in the world to recognise women’s right to vote, leading other countries to follow in our steps. We also have a fairly representative government, inclusive and open toward female members. Although much more work is needed.

Even with all of our efforts, women’s basic human rights are still not being respected in many countries of the world. This can be due to religious or cultural institutions, often controlled by men, which are yet to recognise basic human rights. The most extreme examples of these include honour killings and female genital mutilation – horrors which women are still subjected to in some parts of the world. This proves that we still have a long way to go as an international society.

The change starts with us. It takes one person, group or country to be a catalyst towards change. Women have proven this throughout history. Movements like feminism have led to immense change regarding the role that women have in society and the rights that society recognises. Let’s use this day to unite as an international society, appreciate our women and continue our fight towards equality.

About the Authors

Aysu Shahin is a UN Youth Volunteer on the Otago Regional Council. She is an aspiring dietician studying a Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences majoring in Nutrition at the University of Otago. She is a lover of food, culture and science and has passion for politics and human rights, which stem from her multicultural background and upbringing in Iran.

 

Alex Stevenson is our National Volunteers Officer, she is also a public servant with a Master of International Studies with Distinction from the University of Otago. She is a keen white water kayaker and a nerd for politics.

World Radio Day (Podcast Edition)

Do you walk places? Do you do dishes? Do you tidy your room or clean your flat? Do you catch public transport? If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you have time to listen to podcasts.

First up, quick definition: podcasts are radio shows available on the internet.

I was brought up on a diet of audiobooks. I assume my parents couldn’t keep up with my voracious appetite to be read to – although it may have also been to do with trying to entertain me whilst not having a TV. By the time I was twelve I had listened to every audiobook in regular circulation in both the children’s and young adult section of my local library

If there was a movie of my life, the other half of the soundtrack would be Radio New Zealand National. It’s probably the only station the radio at home has ever been tuned to.

But, the Canterbury earthquake thinned out my aural landscape. My local library was ‘red-stickered’ and my only audiobook dispensary was the irregular Mobile Library truck. I was stuck without the reassuring voice of Hugh Laurie (who narrates so many young adult/children’s books that watching House is strangely nostalgic) to balance out news stories of earthquake damage and insurance nightmares at home, and war damage and terrorist nightmares overseas.

Then I discovered podcasts.

Finally, I could keep being read to in a socially acceptable way, and keep up to date with current events with a fresh and engaging lens. My friends will all tell you that most stories I bring up in conversation are prefaced by; “I heard this thing in a podcast”. But there’s good reason for that. This is radio that exposes you to stories you wouldn’t hear otherwise. Listening to these stories has broadened my perspective on politics, science, relationships, life, the world. There’s so many different podcasts out there, so just start somewhere.

Episode Recommendations

Reply All – #56: Zardulu

Two guys, PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman, shine a light into the strange, funny, political and sometimes creepy corners of the internet. In this episode they meet mythmaker Zardulu who claims to engineer viral videos. They also do a segment called Yes, Yes, No which deciphers weird memes found on Twitter. A+.

Mystery Show – Case #2: Britney

Starlee Kine delves into small mysteries. The kind that seem inconsequential, but still bug you. In this episode she finds out for a little-known author whether Britney Spears has read her book. Wide-ranging and real, plus, she has a really nice voice.

Another Round – U mad? (with Margaret Cho)

Most successful podcasts have either been going for a while, or have famous hosts. Another Round with Heben & Tracey started relatively recently and was an immediate success. Heben & Travey cover everything from race, gender, and pop culture to squirrels, mangoes, and bad jokes and their honest and empathetic interview style really lends itself to the format of the show. (Explicit Language Warning)

The Mortified Podcast – #06 Adam: Rhyme or Reason

People read their childhood or adolescent diaries in front of a live audience. In this episode a budding poet shows of his prowess. Comedy gold.

This American Life – #599: Seriously?

Each week This American Life chooses a theme and puts together different kinds of stories on that theme. In this episode host Ira Glass and contributors try to understand the post-truth politics of Donald Trump. Their recent episodes around US politics and migration have been amazing at illuminating the realities of these events by interviewing and getting to know people from all sides of the issue.   (episode link)

*Editor’s note: a couple of the above recommendations are from me too (Bhen) – I’m also a massive podcast fan and couldn’t resist the opportunity to push a few of my favourites too!

Other good shows

NPR Politics Podcast

Serial

Nocturne

The Moth Podcast

Storycorps

Strangers

99% Invisible

Criminal

Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review

Radiolab

Love + Radio

How to Be Amazing with Michael Ian Black

Invisibilia

Desert Island Discs

International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Bokyong Mun | BSC/LLB: Chemistry Major

Science is all around us, it literally makes up who we are in a sense, and I think that’s what is so amazing about it – it empowers you with the knowledge, and skills to better not only your own lives, but also that of the rest of society. That’s why it sucks to see that there are still massive barriers against women in STEM careers. So many girls take STEM related subjects at school and university, so it’s easy to think that there isn’t an issue at all. However, the in-built sexism can be found at all levels in STEM careers. Women deserve the equal chance to grasp the awesome opportunity that Science, and a STEM career provides.

I decided to study Science, especially Chemistry because it empowers me to create the change that I want to see in the world. Learning chemistry isn’t just about memorising atoms or formulas, but seeing how the things you learn make up the foundation for everything that you see around you. I find this so awesome, because understanding Chemistry allows me to have a deeper understanding of Climate Change and sustainability issues. I’m able to understand the ‘why’ behind the issues that we face today, and use this to hopefully one day influence new technology and policies to make our world a better place.

Lauren Watson | BHSc/LLB: Population Health Major

There’s a beauty in researching, finding those pieces of information that will be used in the future, in finding objective truths in our world, in finding ways to understand it better. At my primary school, we had random facts day, where everyone had to come into class with a strange quirky truth about the world we lived in, one of the best ones told was “Mantis shrimp limbs can move so fast that the water around them boils.” This was the start of my obsession with Mantis Shrimp, and my love of science.

Through scientific communication with youth, we stimulate the next generation of minds to take us forward into the future, as well as stepping forward ourselves. As the world becomes more connected, by the internet, by migration, some cultures are seen to be very different, but what scientists can see is the commonality of the scientific method, try once, try again, and again all under the same conditions and have you got a trend? We find connection through the knowledge we have; though sometimes in different languages, and the love of knowledge that we share.

Gina Yukich | BA/BE(Hons)

Engineering as a career appealed to me partly because I love science and creative discovery, but also because it is a skill that can be applied to help people in so many different ways. The 2015 magnitude 7.8 earthquake in Nepal killed almost 9,000 people, while Japan – the global center of earthquake research – frequently has high magnitude earthquakes with low or non-existent death tolls. The quality of physical infrastructure and the disaster response systems is so often the difference between life and death during disasters, so I can feel proud that the work I do in the field of earthquake engineering contributes to a safer community.

I am also proud to be a woman in a STEM field. Representation is improving so much now days (over a quarter of new engineering students are women!), but there is most definitely still work to be done and stereotypes to be broken.