New Zealanders are still debating whether they should vote for women to be their country’s next prime minister, with one of the country’s biggest women’s colleges overlooking a forum for the women’s rights movement.
The New Zealand Conference of Women’s Associations on Monday said it would not participate in the upcoming New Zealand Women’s College forum, saying it was too important to be overshadowed by “patriarchy-inspired rhetoric” on issues such as abortion, gender equality and same-sex marriage.
The forum was organized by the New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Women in Science and Technology (NZASWT) in partnership with the New York-based Feminist Alliance, which is dedicated to advancing women’s voices in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
In an open letter to the NZASWT, chairwoman Jennifer Jelinek said the “political agenda” of the forum is “contrary to the mission of NZASDT, which seeks to advance the rights of women, LGBTQIA+ individuals and other marginalized groups.”
The letter comes after women’s groups across the country have called on the conference to exclude the “radical and anti-woman views” of its organizers.
Feminist Alliance president Sarah Hill, who attended the NZBS forum on Sunday, said she felt “embarrassed” by the decision.
“I am deeply disappointed that the New Labour-led Coalition Government has chosen to ignore our concerns and have chosen to exclude us from this critical forum,” she wrote in the letter.
“We feel like this is yet another example of their unwillingness to listen to our voices.”
In an email to the New Statesman, NZASHT said the New Zealander conference was not an issue to be taken lightly.
“NZASDT is not a political party,” the organisation said.
“The New Zealand Government is currently holding a ‘Women’s Conference of the Year’ that is being attended by representatives from a wide range of organisations.
Hill told the New Times she was “absolutely not” offended by the forum’s organizers, saying that they have a “clear agenda of promoting their own interests” and the “dangerous” rhetoric coming from “patriot” groups such as the Australian Conservatives and the Australian Labor Party. “
New Zealanders have a right to participate in this important, critical forum and we have been encouraged by the NZ Conference of women’s associations and NZASFT to attend this forum.”
Hill told the New Times she was “absolutely not” offended by the forum’s organizers, saying that they have a “clear agenda of promoting their own interests” and the “dangerous” rhetoric coming from “patriot” groups such as the Australian Conservatives and the Australian Labor Party.
Hill added that while the NZBTS does not support the Conservative Party, she believes it is important to “give voice to the voices of women”.
NZASCT has also been a vocal critic of the Australian Conservative Party.
It has previously called on Conservative MP Cathy McGowan to resign from the party and called for a “strong, progressive, anti-poverty, pro-jobs” government in Australia.
“If Cathy McGann’s political career was to continue, she would have a major role to play in our nation,” Hill said.
McGowan has been an outspoken supporter of Australia’s controversial One Nation Party, but also a staunch supporter of women and LGBT rights.
The party recently endorsed New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and has been the party’s top fundraiser.