New Zealand’s Road to Gender Equality: Interview with Hon Jan Tinetti, Minister for Women

As part of She’s Right’s participation in 16 days of activism to end violence against women, each piece will be dedicated to a woman who has lost her life due to gender-based violence. This article is dedicated to Fresha Wharepapa, killed by a man on 19th June 1992, at the age of 19.

Jan Tinetti was recently appointed Minister for Women in the 2020 New Zealand Cabinet, among other portfolios. Jan shared with the She’s Right team her views on political diversity, the work to end gender-based violence, and her dream for a gender-equal New Zealand.

The 2020 election has seen a record number of women and LGBTQIA+ people enter New Zealand Parliament. What do you see as the benefits of increased diversity in New Zealand politics?

It is important that our Parliament is representative of the people it serves, and that people can see themselves in our Parliament. More diverse leadership results in better decision making, better organisational resilience and better performance. It also opens up more opportunities for women and people of colour to succeed and contributes to a more inclusive and fairer society.

How would you describe New Zealand’s current position with regard to gender-based violence? Are we doing enough to protect those at risk, particularly transgender women and women of colour who experience higher relative rates of gender-based violence?

Violence against women and girls is widespread in New Zealand and this needs to change. Women are 2.5 times more likely to experience intimate partner violence than men, and 22 percent of women experience one or more intimate partner violence offences during their lifetime. Māori experience almost three times more intimate partner violence incidents than the national average.  This has to change, and I look forward to working with our first Minister for Prevention of Family Violence and Sexual Violence, Marama Davidson, to address these issues. It is important that gender is a central focus of this work.

What new solutions do you think need to be implemented to protect women and girls in New Zealand from violence? 

We know that women’s safety is a complex issue and that there are many solutions. If we are to end family violence and sexual violence in New Zealand, the Government’s approach to family violence and sexual violence needs to be long-term. This Government has already made ending family violence and sexual violence a priority – we introduced up to 10 days paid domestic violence leave each year, made strangulation a new criminal offence, and included coercion and control within the definition of family violence.

The Government has also created the Joint Venture for Family Violence and Sexual Violence, so that ten government agencies take collective responsibility on the issue. Additionally, the Wellbeing Budget 2019 made the single biggest contribution in this area in New Zealand history to support frontline agencies, fund prevention work, restore kaupapa Māori services, and dedicate funding to intervene before violence occurs. Ending family violence and sexual violence requires a whole-of-Government, and a whole-of-society, approach. I look forward to working with our first Minister for Prevention of Family Violence and Sexual Violence, Marama Davidson, to continue addressing these issues.

COVID-19 has had gendered consequences, including increasing rates of domestic violence globally, and women bearing the brunt of COVID-19 job losses. How will you advocate for the gendered consequences of COVID-19 to be taken into account in the Government’s response and recovery plans?

The number one focus at the moment is ensuring women are central to the COVID-19 recovery and rebuild. The Global Financial Crisis and Canterbury earthquakes showed that women are more negatively affected by economic shocks. The economic impact of COVID-19 seems to be following the same pattern as these other events. This Government will continue to take action to support a strong economic recovery and get people back into work. We have already cushioned the economic blow for everyone, but we have an opportunity to make sure we build back better so that women are less vulnerable to labour market shocks in future.

My other priorities are addressing family violence and sexual violence, advancing pay equity, and addressing the gender pay gap. The Government has signalled the importance of having women’s perspectives in its decision-making by having the Minister for Women in Cabinet. I intend to work collaboratively with my Ministerial colleagues and raise issues with them that impact on women and other diverse groups. 

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, this year warned that many States are experiencing a “backlash” to women’s rights and gender equality. Do you think backlash is an issue in New Zealand, and if so, how can it be combatted?

Every person deserves to live free of violence. I haven’t seen evidence of a “backlash” happening in New Zealand, but it is concerning internationally. I want to acknowledge the many organisations and individuals who are championing gender equality and taking action – actions like promoting women into leadership roles and supporting diversity in their organisations, addressing their gender pay gaps, and attracting more women to traditionally male-dominated industries.

What is the most significant goal you would like to achieve during your time as Minister for Women, and why?

This Government is already delivering for women. By passing equal pay legislation, delivering record pay settlements for female dominated workforces, and proving the gender pay gap can be closed with the Action Plan in the public sector, this Government is taking action to ensure women are paid fairly. As Minister for Women, I want to ensure that women are central to the COVID-19 recovery and rebuild, and that New Zealand women and girls have access to all of the opportunities that are available to them.

What is your vision for a gender equal New Zealand?

My vision is one where all New Zealanders, regardless of gender, have the freedom and opportunity to determine their own future. It is also a vision where people are safe to express their personalities, and make choices without the limitations set by stereotypes, rigid gender roles, prejudices, and fear of others’ opinions. Where everyone has equal opportunities to learn, and their work – paid or unpaid – is valued fairly. Where we treat all people equally and have a society where diversity is respected and encouraged.


Image by New Zealand Labour Party. – https://www.labour.org.nz/ourteam, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=94585181

Feature image from Wikimedia Commons

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