Women’s Conference 2021

By Annie McCauley, Lyttelton Local 43 Women’s Rep

After months of planning alongside our National MUNZ Women’s Rep Fiona Mansell, a strong group of 24 MUNZ Women from around New Zealand attended the Council of Trade Unions Biannual Women’s Conference in Wellington on 19 and 20 July 2021.

This year’s theme was Maranga mai wahine ma – meaning rising above, and boy does that statement ring true for our Union.

Through pure determination from our National Women’s Rep we had the largest ever MUNZ delegation to attend the Womens Conference. For the second time in a row the Maritime Union of New Zealand was again the talking point of the conference for all the right reasons.

In all honesty it was a very humbling experience to be a part of, a super proud moment to be able to change our Union’s past history of participation at this event.

From someone who has been privileged to attend four of these events there was no denying the two days of Conference were full on and there was a lot to take in.

There was a slightly different take on events this time round. Due to COVID there were no international guest speakers. However the organizers need to be commended for the programme.

Day one kicked off with Hon Jan Tinetti who is currently our Minister for Women, Minister of Internal Affairs and Associate Minister of Education. I have to be honest she didn’t do much for me, due to the lack of substance of answers to some pretty hard questions by our fellow unionists.

Up next was well-known writer and journalist Rebecca Macfie who was truly captivating. Rebecca spoke about her recently published biography of the late Helen Kelly and time spent with her hearing about all the campaigns she was involved with.

Rebecca also spoke about her other book Tragedy at Pike River, and of Helen’s conviction and passion for the families involved. Rebecca believed that if Helen was still with us, Helen would see our current housing crisis as a “workers crisis” and be campaigning for change.

After lunch we had another captivating speaker Jennifer Ward-Lealand who is the president of Equity New Zealand (the Union for Actors.)

Jennifer has an incredible list of accolades and was honoured as the Kiwibank New Zealander of the year in 2020. An amazing woman that has over a 40 year plus background in television, radio, both theatre and film industries. Jennifer spoke of the roles of an Intimacy Co-ordinator (which isn’t quite what you may think it might be).

From the moment Jennfier stepped up to speak she had us all in suspense of what was coming next. I was in awe of her passion, dedication of commitment for changing mind sets in her selected field for the better.  

She noted one in three people experience sexual harassment in their lives – not just women.

My first Workshop after lunch was Feminism 101: A short History of feminism in Aotearoa.

This was a very hands-on workshop working in groups of six to eight. It was interesting learning of the different interpretations of the feminist movement over time.

Workshop two was on How to represent Members and win. This was an in depth workshop with lots to take in. We were given a detailed handout to refer back to after the Conference.

Day two kicked off with the remit process.

To give you a better idea this is the process is where policies such as the paid 10 Days Domestic Violence leave and increase to 10 Sick Days per year have all been advocated for.

Hot topics on the remit agenda included advocating for the removal of GST on all fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, and dairy products. I have to say this was another very interesting process to be part of too.

I am sure a few of the first timers were also interested by it, now knowing that this is where our Unions advocate for change to the government.

I am sure it gave them food for thought, to be able to hear the other 14 Unions present have their discussions on the different topics put forward.

Dr Elizabeth Kerekere finished off the morning session, which then went onto our afternoon sessions and getting to mingle with other likeminded trade unionists.

To end the day came with the Group photo – once again MUNZ was noticed for our awesome Apparel, Branded and proud the caption read.

Last but not least once again I want to thank the Women of my MUNZ Branch Local 43 for all your support during the conference. It was a pleasure to attend alongside you all.

Many thanks to Fiona for letting me assist with the Apparel and be a part of this amazing MUNZ History.

In Unity.

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