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Indigenous women’s voices for gender justice

Indigenous women’s voices for gender justice

Ruihana Paenga

12 July 2019 3:25PM

A member of this year’s Anglican Communion delegation to the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women, Ruihana Paenga from the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, writes about how the voices of indigenous women need to be heard in the fight for gender justice

E tipu e rea mō ngā ra o tou ao . . .
Ko ou ringa ki ngā rākau a te pākeha, hei ara mō te tīnana
Ko tō ngākau ki ngā taonga a ōu tīpuna Māori, hei tikitiki mō to māhuna
Ko tō wairua ki te Atua, nāna nei ngā mea katoa


Grow up, o tender youth and fulfil the needs of your generation
With your hand master the arts of the pākeha, for your material well-being
In your heart holdfast to the treasures of your Māori ancestors, as a plume for your head
Your soul given to God, the author of all thing

This Māori proverb by Sir Apirana Ngata (1949) is a mantra for indigenous youth and educational development in Aotearoa, New Zealand.  Many Māori leaders holdfast to its teaching as they navigate our colonised, modern day world.

I am happy to share my thoughts on UNCSW63 and recent event Women Deliver,  both aimed at maintaining and enhancing gender equality as an essential and fundamental priority of human rights.

The United Nations is a learning curve not many get to experience. You need to be ready and open to that learning to enjoy and make the most of UNCSW.  Our delegation was well chosen. Women from different development contexts and with different expertise, we united in love and respect for each other, the necessity for faith based collaboration and better coordination of intersecting development priorities; social protection access, justice and sustainable futures and infrastructure.

Post UNCSW, I was asked to speak at Women Deliver on an indigenous panel on politics and power. I recalled as a New Zealand delegation we tried to push for more references and greater commitment to indigenous women in the agreed conclusions of CSW63 but were unsuccessful.

As marginalised groupings, indigenous and minority women still need distinct advocacy voices within the church and at settings like CSW and Women Deliver.  For indigenous young adults it is even more imperative for that distinct advocacy voice (within youth issues) to sit equitably alongside the mainstream call for change and inclusion.

There seems to be so much at stake at this time, push back on gender equality, multilateralism sexual health rights and education.  The process for the 25 year review of the UN Beijing Declaration of Peace has already begun, we must assess our commitments to each other as faith-based partners and a Communion.

It was heartening to see the Anglican Consultative Council elect a youth member to the ACC standing committee, placing further impetus on young Anglicans with representative roles and voices to make the most of these opportunities.  I hope we continue to lead in this vain both in representation and ultimately influencing policy and budget lines that promote the youth agenda.