"When we unleash the power of women, we can secure the future for all," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message for International Women’s Day 2015.
I am going to share with you some excerpts from a speech I made on International Women’s day a few years ago …
Firstly though, a little about me:
I am the mum of an eight year old daughter, who I co-share with her dad. I didn’t think I would have children and thus she was quite the surprise at the age of 41. I was born in a little place called Puketaha in the Waikato, to a shearer and dairy farmers daughter, moving to Russell at the age of 4. I spent quite a bit of my childhood thistle chipping, on the end of a spade battening, and many, many hours as the shearer’s rousie (occasionally getting paid for it).
At one stage, Mum and Dad managed a small farm at Long Beach, mainly sheep and dry stock. I have many hilarious stories from my childhood, particularly around dad’s frustrations in trying to get the working dogs to work (one particular one he borrowed from up the road generally had a constant flea issue and constipation and used to spend quite a bit of time dragging its bum along the ground….)
Before I became a ‘politician’ I did a few things. Worked a lot in tourism, involved in oyster farm clean ups, youth mentoring and then employment support for all ages, project management, administration and local government.
My life to date has had many challenges, some quite difficult, many joys and much growth. I love where I have come to and am looking forward to whatever life has to offer as I move forward in a proactive and open hearted sort of way.
Now I want to share with you some of my thoughts on the need for balance and the huge importance that women play in this.
Firstly though, I want to acknowledge how blessed I feel to have been born and raised in Aotearoa. Although we as a country do have many challenges on a number of levels, we are still a country of great hope.
So balance – well currently – imbalance. For our mother earth to flourish and as an off shoot - continue to sustain us - we, as human beings, must urgently look to return balance to our planet.
To finding balance between the sexes...this to me means recognising and respecting what the opposites bring to make the whole. Whether it be masculine and feminine, night and day, hot and cold – the strength in these is that one can not be without the other.
And as women I know we all recognise the importance of the moon, her changing face and the impacts this brings upon our systems – both naturally and manufactured.
It is quite clearly recognised that in business, whether in the board room or one the farm, women and men bring quite different approaches to the table – and that this can produce some very well balanced and effective decision making. I certainly see that around the council table.
Having or gaining more power is generally not a key motivator for women. We tend to be more inspired by the feeling of achievement, making a difference and being valued or adding valve.
We need to celebrate this diversity between the sexes rather than trying to control and manipulate it to ones own end.
As a people this is where our strength will come from. Our unity and our healing.
Women, I believe, play a significant role in bringing about this change. Although often the physically weaker sex – we are strong of heart, carry great wisdom and can endure and grow from many trials and tribulations. We are generally very resilient and rarely suffer from man flu. We are renown for balancing hectic lifestyles and having exceptional organisational skills and know how to feed a tribe!
And, I believe, we inherently know what is right – we just don't always have the self belief that can be required to make the change.
So this is what I would now like to focus on – encouraging us, as women, to believe that we can be all that we want to be and often a lot more – I do find that humans in general underestimate just what we are capable of.
And I am a very good example. I'm not going into my journey today...but lets just say that being in local politics, let alone the deputy mayor was not on my 'will achieve' list and yet here I am.
I am learning to never say never.
I am also a firm believer that we all have a very special purpose and that is to be the best that we can be and thus we must push ourselves onwards and upwards.
Which is often much easier said than done.
Why? I think I will call it conditioning – society norms or the beliefs that we learn as children which we can carry with us for a life time - if we are not brave enough to challenge them and then make the change.
Now – some of these beliefs are good...very good, some are unhelpful and others can be down right destructive. I just want to note, that society beliefs are different all over the place, rural...urban, one culture...another culture, etc
So, when we as women look for equality, which we most certainly deserve and should have – as its quite natural and normal, we have to believe...deep down... that we are actually entitled to it – and that this can go against some well ingrained belief systems – whether we realise it or not (and this goes for men as well).
I believe and have experienced that often what we are taught and what actually ‘is’ vary greatly. One can be set in fear (not always intentionally) teaching people to behave in a certain way – a form of control. The other is set in self acceptance and trusting in what’s right for one’s own journey.
It’s not about the masses or about what someone else thinks. It’s about learning to recognise and trust in one’s own intuition, ones own journey. It's about finding that quiet place inside – where peace remains supreme. I have found that making decisions from this place has never put me wrong...I will note that it can often be quite hard to find this space sometimes with all the hub bub that goes on in my head and around me...
Yes our journeys inter-weave with each other – all the time, but your journey and my journey are not the same and should not be compared.
This is certainly not suggesting that I should get on with my own life – damn the rest of you :) Quite the opposite...
For me to be truly authentic, to be all that I can be – should bring me to a place of compassion and empathy. Recognition that although I am an individual I am part of the whole. For me to truly succeed, I need to be in a space of success, which means my wider community, district, etc is also succeeding or prosperous.
And not many things give me more joy than seeing people I work or interact with grow and overcome obstacles, finding moments of happiness on the way, as they journey along their path to be all that they can be...and should be.
Which is why it is so wonderful to be with you here this morning.
To inspire, encourage and or uplift another individual is quite something. And it's not because you actually did anything other than believe in them. Its because they did it for themselves – they found a happy place - and they in turn carry on to inspire others – its has a wonderful ripple effect. As no doubt you will experience more of as you move forward.
I would now like to briefly touch on two things.
One: the need to support our young women and help instill in them the right belief systems so that they are encouraged to make vibrant decisions that will help them truly prosper. That they don't need to be a size eight, have long flowing hair and a buff boyfriend to have a wonderful life. That they are all specifically and specially created perfect as we are. That they are valued and have something very important to do with their lives – and that is to be the amazing person that they are – right now (you may also want to point out that life gets very boring when everything is the same...)
The second point... as women we need to start being a bit nicer to each other. Just like we need to inspire our young women we need to inspire each other.
Women (generalising here) are quite renown for being catty and nasty...something I personally experienced at high school and one of the reasons I probably tend to hang out more with men now...
This behaviour comes from a place of low self esteem. If we want equality, then we need to stand together united and encourage each other – not compare or pull down. We need to stand by each other, compliment, uplift. Just saying kia ora to a stranger can make someone's day.
For many of us, challenging our belief systems will take courage... it will require us to step outside of our comfort zone...(I encourage it – its quite liberating)
I once read a quote on Facebook saying “life begins at the end of your comfort zone”
Courage is a fine line between hope, knowing and respect for one’s self. It’s going to take courage and hope and faith to be all you can be. Life does offer great abundance
And love will provide the strength to show you the way
Having this hope will help you confidently take the next step and in achieving that step you will want to take another...and another...
So, I firmly believe in the power of unleashing women's potential – that will scare a few men lol.
I firmly believe that we have some way to go to achieve balance and that it will take a change of mindset by both men and women.
I firmly believe that we need to do this - our world depends on it.
Equality or balance is the right thing – the only thing that will bring true prosperity to human kind.