The Women's Fund launch (supplied)

The charity fund supporting the dreams of girls, brought to you by NZ women

A renewed focus on women’s and gender issues around the world has provided a backdrop for New Zealand’s first women’s charitable fund, writes Auckland Foundation CEO Dellwyn Stuart, who launched the fund last November.

New Zealand has long been one of the first nations to see the light when it comes to gender equality issues. Our forward-thinking approach to gender relations was recently underlined by the strong support for Jacinda Ardern’s announcement that she will soon be a new mother as well as our PM.

This largely positive reaction is a sign that we have a unique opportunity today to move forward and break down the last remnants of a world designed by men, for men. It is clear we can do more in New Zealand for women and girls who carry the burden of poverty, and doing more would benefit our communities as a whole.

It’s not too long ago we saw the Roast Busters scandal, in which a group of young men used social media to boast about getting underage girls drunk so they could gang rape them. Or, more recently, the Wellington College episode where rape ‘jokes’ led to girls at three local colleges staging a protest.

One in four New Zealand women will experience violence in their lifetime. Violence against women knows no social or cultural divides. However some women are at greater risk that others, including young women and Māori women.

According to the New Zealand Family Violence Clearing House’s 2017 data snapshot, up to one in three New Zealand women will say they experienced sexual abuse as a child, and 20% of female secondary school students say they have experienced unwanted sexual contact in the last 12 months.

Statistics show only one in ten sexual abuse crimes are reported. Three of those cases go to court and of those, only one case is likely to get a conviction.

Poverty also effects women disproportionately. Sole-parent families are much more likely to be in severe housing deprivation and a quarter of all of New Zealand’s mothers head up households alone.

Twelve per cent of women say they can’t join the workforce because they can’t find childcare – and when women can get to work, they are paid an average of 9% less than male colleagues, even though women achieve 61% of the tertiary qualifications in New Zealand.

A recent report [PDF] found that women make up 29% of management positions, but 46% of non-management positions. At the top, less than one in five board members of New Zealand listed companies are women, fewer than in Australia. The report estimates that having equal gender represenation in leadership could be worth $881 million to our economy.

The Auckland Foundation, of which I’m CEO, launched New Zealand’s first women’s fund at the end of 2017 as a response to all of these issues. Since then we have built up a significant following and collected 50+ like-minded members – women and men – who are making donations, large and small, one-off or regular. We have formed a community of givers and change makers who will share ideas on how to make an impact based on the strength of women and the dreams of girls.

We launched the fund with our ‘100 Women’ campaign, posing the question, ‘what if we were 100 women?’ and featuring some of the statistics I’ve mentioned above.

On the other side of the story, it’s extremely exciting to think about the impact we can make when working together. And when giving is targeted to women and girl’s issues, we believe we’ll see a ripple effect for whole families and communities.

At the Auckland Foundation, we have been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and support shown by so many New Zealanders – before we have even distributed a cent.

Many people are looking for a way they can contribute their time, experience and resources and make a positive difference for those facing challenges. The Women’s Fund can provide connection and meaning that we need in our lives, while making a difference for others.

Our early success backs up the research around women’s giving, which tells us that because women tend to view money and use money differently, we also give money differently. Giving collectively and socially appeals to many women’s desire to create relationships and work together, providing powerful evidence of the potential of women and girls to make positive change happen in their communities.

It is estimated internationally that only around 9% of philanthropic funding goes specifically to girls and women. Girls and boys, men and women: we experience life differently, face different challenges. When we develop programmes and make grants to create change, gender needs to be considered. One size often does not fit all.

In 2018, when we celebrate the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage, the Women’s Fund will champion taking gender into account when philanthropic grants are considered and programmes are developed.

Mark New Zealand’s 125th anniversary of world leading suffrage this International Women’s Day by making an investment in positive change for gender equality and join New Zealand’s first women’s fund.

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