Business and Professional Women’s Asia Pacific Regional Conference Report

Business and Professional Women’s Asia Pacific Regional Conference Report

My name is Adele Hardie.  I am an accountant working for the Bishop’s Community Development Trust, supporting community organisations so that they can meet their reporting requirements.

On 9 and 10 April I had the privilege of attending the Business and Professional Women’s Asia Pacific Regional Conference in Auckland.  BPW is an organisation that has Enabled, Inspired and Empowered women internationally for 85 years.  BPW International has permanent consultative status at the United Nations.

Attending the conference were women from 11 Asia Pacific countries, Europe, Central America and the Middle East.

It was absolutely inspiring hearing about their achievements and also that of my own Upper Hutt club.  We in Upper Hutt instigated a resolution against child brides and forced marriages.  This was adopted by BPW New Zealand and then with support from some African clubs by BPW International.  One of our Upper Hutt members was invited to speak to the resolution when it was successfully presented to the United Nations in New York.  At the conference we learnt that as a result of our actions several African states have now outlawed child brides and forced marriages.  We are aware that there is a lot more work to be done for this to be actual practise but it is a start.

In other countries clubs are organising post graduate level training for women as leaders, providing scholarships for girls who would otherwise not receive any education, attending OPEC meetings, highlighting the gender pay gap with our Red Bag Day promotions and helping to rebuild the schools and supporting women post the earthquake in Nepal.  Those outside Nepal have donated money and the members in Nepal have been getting their hands dirty repairing houses and schools.  We saw a photo of a house with “BPW” woven into the bamboo exterior wall.

We learnt that if women were allowed to participate in the world economies at the same level as men it would be like adding the economies of both China and United States.  Improving the economic position of women has more positive impact on society as a whole than men.  With women, 80% of their income goes to the family and community as opposed to only about 40% from men.

A UN and World trade initiative is Shetrade where the UN and WTO resources are used to match women traders around the world and also to help them through the male bureaucracies that often create barriers to success.

WEPS, Women’s Empowerment Principles is a UN initiative to promote gender equality.  This is a relatively new programme but so far more than 1200 businesses worldwide have signed up to these principles which are:

  1. Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality
  2. Treat all women and men fairly at work – respect and support human rights and non-discrimination
  3. Ensure the health, safety and well-being of all women and men workers
  4. Promote education, training and professional development for women
  5. Implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women
  6. Promote equality through community initiatives and advocacy
  7. Measure and publicly report on progress to achieve gender equality

We recognise that the changes cannot be made by women alone so there is also a campaign which has been launched by UN Women called HeforShe to recognise all those who support gender equality.   You can check this out online at http://www.heforshe.org/en.  Over 1.3 billion have signed to say that they believe in gender equality.

The final message however was that we have enough statistics, now we need action.

If you would like to be involved with BPW please contact me on adele@bishopstrust.com or 027 538 2987.  We have clubs around New Zealand and if we haven’t got one in your town then we would love to start one.  For more information please check out www.bpwnz.org.nz.