Thursday, 7 May 2009

if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail

one of the projects carried out by the ministry of womens affairs over the last 5-6 years was the development and implementation of the action plan for women. the plan was developed after a lengthy consultation process which involved meetings all across the country in 2002. the meetings were very well-attended, with a lot of discussion and input from women and women's groups througout the country.

after developing the plan, the ministry worked on its implementation, and we saw it translated into policies such as the 20 hours free early childhood education scheme, paid parental leave, interest-free student loans (which was partly to combat the higher interest payments and increased repayment time for women who took time out to have children), the pay equity programme, the te rito strategy to deal with family violence, and much more.

in 2007, the ministry held another series of meetings around the country to report back on implementation of the plan, and to seek further feeback on issues that concerned women. the whole process has been an example of policy developed from the grass roots, and a ministry that showed accountability to the community by fronting up to the women whose lives they sought to improve.

it now seems that the action plan may be scrapped. a ministry official apparently reported this at the business and professional women's annual conference. all those years of work, all that consultation and input from new zealand women is to be put aside, for no good reason that i can see. in it's place, the minister has developed these three strategies for nz women (according to the ministry official):

new zealand prospers when:
  • Women have the opportunity to develop and use their skills and talents
  • Women are healthy, empowered , resilient and safe
  • Society recognises caring as integral to economic and social success

that's it, this is apparently supposed to replace a comprehensive and detailed plan with specific action points.

the minister has contradicted the ministry official in question time today, saying she has not yet made any decision regarding the action plan:

I would advise the member not to bring predetermined questions to the House. I have just told the House that the Ministry of Women’s Affairs is visiting the regions and seeking women’s input into the progress of women before I make any decisions.

however, according to the press release linked to above:

[The Minister] also gave the impression that she was consulting women in regional meetings about the action plan. However, her speeches to two of these regional gatherings posted on the beehive website make no mention of the planned forthcoming review of the action plan.

so if there has been any consultation on the action plan or on the development of the three strategies listed above, there is little evidence of it.

as with the scrapping of the pay equity investigations with no consultation whatsoever (not even the minister herself was consulted), it's quite possible that the action plan will also be scrapped. i'm not particularly hopeful that it will be replaced by anything nearly as comprehensive, and policies that address issues important to women will once again be placed low on the list of government priorities.

1 comment:

Anna said...

I didn't know about this - thanks so much for writing about it anjum.

I think there are two things going on here: the idea that women's things are kind of frivolous extras that can wait for happier economic times, plus an anti-bureaucratic idea that all the state does is plan and talk instead of actually doing stuff. But, of course, the only way to do worthwhile stuff is by carefully planning and getting information and support from the right people - then you can end up with something really effective, like the 'It's not OK' campaign. (Or you can do some knee-jerk policy making, and come up with something dickish, costly and unlikely to even be used, like bootcamps.)

Sigh. I think this calls for some activism.