Poto Williams – NZPPDChair
Poto Williams, new New Zealand Parliamentarians Group on Population and Development (NZPPD) Chair, Labour Party MP and Assistant Speaker, joined NZPPD back in 2015.
Ms Williams says working with the cross-party group provides an important opportunity to ensure the sustainability of initiatives and programmes tackling significant issues facing the Pacific; namely poverty, abuse, sexual health and gender issues.
“Being a New Zealand Pacific person, I have a vested interest in supporting this kaupapa and I am keen to commit and support in whatever way I can.”
Prior to becoming a Member of Parliament in 2013, Ms Williams career centred on community health and laid the foundation for her work with NZPPD. She has also worked in family violence services and run various women’s refuges. “These have given me valuable insight into the issues that face our community.”
As NZPPD’s 20th anniversary is celebrated this month Ms Williams reflects on all that has been achieved in that time – and what there is still to do. She says a workshop on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in 2017 was eye-opening and caused her to consider New Zealand’s progress towards meeting those global goals which for the first time apply to both developed and developing nations.
She says she has also been inspired in her work by other female leaders in the Pacific, among them Niki Rattle, Speaker of the Cook Islands Parliament and Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa.
“Both these women have been advancing the kaupapa of NZPPD in the Pacific region for many years.”
Louise Upston – NZPPD Vice Chair
Tackling issues of female representation, family and sexual violence, and teen pregnancy are what motivates new NZPPD Vice Chair Louise Upston.
Ms Upston joined NZPPD in December 2017 with a gender and social issues background as a former Minister for Women and current Social Development Spokesperson for the National Party.
She says this background has given her an understanding of the daily struggles faced by women across different walks of life and an appreciation for the need to make further progress towards gender equality.
“I see what the outcomes can be when some of these struggles are addressed, which makes me incredibly hopeful and more determined to ensure women have equal rights, equal opportunities and equal choices in life.”
Improving the status of women in the Pacific is a focus of NZPPD and Ms Upston is conscious of the challenges faced in the region.
“In terms of women’s rights, you’ve got a high rate of violence against women, low political participation by women, strong religious views and increased pressure on resources. But if we can help with situations like this and educate people on sexual and reproductive health, the outcomes can be pretty life changing.”
Ms Upston is clear about her position on another of NZPPD’s key strategic areas - sexual and reproductive health.
“Women should have access to reproductive health, it’s as simple as that. If there are fewer women pregnant at a young age - unable to attend school, ostracised in the community - then they can focus on their education and on improving their future. Numerous reports and studies, as well as common sense, tell us that if women are educated, empowered and respected, then the whole community thrives.”
Ms Upston is looking forward to her work with the cross-party group. “I think any situation where you can have MPs from across the board putting politics aside for an important issue is pretty great.”
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