Issue date
13 March 2024

68th session of the Commission on the Status of Women: New Zealand National Statement. Delivered by: Hon Louise Upston, Acting Minister for Women and Minister for Social Development and Employment, the Community and Voluntary Sector, and Child Poverty Reduction.

Tena koutou katoa and greetings to you all.

Chair, I am honoured to address the sixty-eighth session of the Commission on the Status of Women. I acknowledge the many crises impacting the rights of women and girls. Heightened global tensions, war, climate related and humanitarian disasters, and price inflation all exacerbate gender inequalities and push more women and girls into poverty.

Our work here at CSW is critical to eradicating gender inequality and poverty, especially for women and children. As recognised in the 2030 Agenda, gender equality fundamentally underpins sustainable development, including economic development. We will have an opportunity to reaffirm our commitments to gender equality and how we propose to achieve that through the Pact for the Future.

In New Zealand, our priority is building a strong economy to reduce the cost of living, support more people into work and lift incomes for women to help them and their families out of hardship. To do this, we need to focus on investing upfront in a targeted way that directs support to those most in need. We have to be able to understand and analyse people’s need for, and experience of, social services, and to know what works, for whom, and at what cost.

Education is crucial to addressing poverty by providing opportunities for women and their children to fully participate in society. New Zealand is committed to removing barriers to school attendance so that all children and young people get a world-leading education.

New Zealand provides a range of services to support women’s meaningful inclusion in the labour market, and is committed to ensuring our social and financial structures lift women and girls out of poverty. New Zealand’s goal of reducing child poverty means it is important to address the specific barriers experienced by sole mothers. By encouraging and supporting women into stable employment and training, we can support women and their families out of poverty.

Access to available, affordable, and quality sexual and reproductive health services is pivotal to eradicating poverty for all women and girls, and especially for those living in rural and remote areas and islands. We are pleased to have supported the delivery of over 500,000 services in the Pacific, including improved access to contraception, sexual and gender-based violence services, and cervical cancer screening and treatment. Addressing gender-based violence is integral to women’s safety, wellbeing and economic empowerment across the Pacific.

Applying a gender lens to initiatives can prevent the perpetration of gender inequalities and support the wellbeing of women and girls. Poverty impacts are compounded for those who experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination. We have supported our partners in the Pacific to improve gender-responsive financing and provided budget support to some Pacific Island countries through COVID-19 to enable them to provide social protection of priority populations. We also support financing for gender equality through our International Development Cooperation and climate financing initiatives.

Supporting all women and girls out of cycles of poverty requires an equal seat at the leadership and decision-making table. New Zealand is working to increase women’s leadership both domestically and internationally, with a particular focus on those who face additional barriers and those from Small Island States.

Last year, New Zealand joined with 17 Pacific Island Forum Member States to revitalise and endorse the Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration. This will reinforce collective efforts to address enduring barriers to gender equality and advance the development of Pacific women and girls.

We also recently signed up to the COP28 Gender Responsive Just Transition and Climate Action Partnership pledge which calls for the full, equal and meaningful leadership and participation of all women and girls in climate action.

It is essential that women and girls are able to aim high. Leadership at all levels – national, provincial and community – must be valued and supported. This means providing different types of leaders with the right resources and funding to ensure their full and meaningful participation in all spaces.

If we want an equitable future where poverty is eradicated, we must strengthen our commitment to empowering women and girls and to ensure no one is left behind. We have made real inroads into the advancement of women, and these gains must be protected and progressed. This forum is crucial to ensuring we continue the momentum.

Nga mihi nui. Thank you.