Shivani Gopal

Shivani Gopal

April 14, 2021
| Womens Advocacy

Founder’s Weekly | 6th November 2020

The US election, civil unrest & strikes in Poland & the bright light of New Zealand’s parliament.

Fellow remarkable women,

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been on edge for three days now, courtesy of the chaos that is the US election. This week we will of course be going into the events that continue to unfold as votes are still being counted. I’ll also be covering the civil and political unrest currently going on in Poland with regards to women’s rights. And, in a stark yet positive contrast, we’ll be looking at the wonderful updates that are being made to New Zealand’s parliamentary cabinet.

An update on the US election

For those of you who’ve been keeping track of the US election, you’ll be well aware of the absolute mess and chaos that’s unfolded.

We’ve had Trump announce “Frankly, we did win this election” within hours of voting day, before all the votes had actually been counted. Then, he declared victory in Pennsylvania even though officials were still counting more than a million ballots. And let’s not forget the fact that he’s also tried to sue Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia for voter fraud with absolutely zero grounds. And of course, he’s saying that "we'll be going to the US Supreme Court," and "we want all voting to stop."

It’s a disturbing and petulant display of behaviour. Firstly, voting has stopped. What he wants to stop is the hundreds of thousands of mail-in and early votes from being counted. Why? Because even though these votes are 100% legitimate and were made before voting closed, they are coming from areas that traditionally vote for the Democrats.

Frankly, Trump’s remarks are not only absurd but anti-democratic. He’s saying that he wants votes to be counted, but only if they are votes for him. And that’s simply not how democracy works. 

Regardless of Trump’s ridiculous but not altogether surprising behaviour, the rest of the world wait with bated breath for the election results. 

In the predicted event that  Biden wins and holds up his campaign promises, here is what it will mean for women:   

- An administration structured to ensure women’s issues remain at the forefront of policy efforts
- Improved economic security for women – continuing the fight for equal pay as well as investment in women-owned businesses and expanded access to education and training.
- Expanded access to high-quality, affordable health care for all women.
- Expanded access to affordable childcare, care for older Americans and people with disabilities
- Expanded access to paid leave and other important workplace benefits and protections.
- Improved resources to tackle violence against women

I can only hope that Biden pulls through – not just because of his promises to the women of America but because we need to put an end to the past four years of madness and begin to heal the deep rift that is tearing America apart.

People take to the streets as Poland introduces a ban on abortion

Last Thursday, the Constitution Court in Poland closed one of the few remaining legal grounds for abortion in the country. According to the new ruling, terminations will now only be considered legal in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the mother's life. Deputy Foreign Minister, Pawel Jablonski, has said that the ruling “protects the unborn from discrimination on the grounds of health defects.” Furthermore, the ruling party leader has stated that the decision cannot and will not be reversed.

However, people all over the country are taking to the streets to protest the decision - and rightly so!

The fact is that this ruling, while claiming to uphold the rights of unborn foetuses, completely ignores the rights of the mother. Sarah Weddington explained it well when she stated that:

“A pregnancy to a woman is perhaps one of the most determinative aspects of her life. It disrupts her body. It disrupts her education. It disrupts her employment. And it often disrupts her entire family life… she should be allowed to make the choice as to whether to continue or to terminate her pregnancy.”

The simple fact is that if a woman is not allowed to have an abortion, she is not only forced to continue the pregnancy to birth but also expected to support and look after the resulting child for many years to come. As women, our freedom and life choices are (realistically) limited by bearing children, and the stereotypes, social customs, and oppressive duties that went with it. Of course, the male politicians of Poland don’t see this, because men don't get pregnant, and so aren't restricted in the same way.

So, for the seventh day running, street demonstrations are being held in several cities across the country, with tens of thousands of people in attendance chanting, “This is war.” And it certainly is. War is being waged on women’s bodies, and we need to fight for the right to maintain our own sense of autonomy.

At the end of the day, we should be able to do what we like with our own bodies. We don’t need male politicians making these decisions for us. 

NZ parliament continues to embrace diversity

 While the US election continues to descend into chaos, New Zealand continues to shine a light as a progressive and inclusive country with the introduction of two very amazing women to the cabinet.

Priyanca Radhakrishnan, NZ’s new Minister for Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities has become the first-ever Indian-origin minister. Born in India, she began her schooling Singapore before moving to New Zealand to further her education. First elected as a Member of Parliament with the Labour Party in 2017, she has spent her life advocating on behalf of people whose voices are often unheard - women survivors of domestic violence, and migrant workers who have been exploited.

Meanwhile, Nanaia Mahuta made history has been named the country’s first Indigenous female foreign minister. What is even more significant is that in 2016, after taking part in a Māori tattooing design ceremony, she became the first female member of parliament to wear lip and chin markings (also known as moko kauae). These tattoos often carry huge cultural significance for the wearer, telling the story of their genealogy and ancestors, but it’s not uncommon for Maori people to be refused service in bars or restaurants as a result of having visible tattoos. As New Zealand’s new foreign minister, Nanaia will take the moko to consulates and embassies around the world, promoting Maori cultural on an international scale.

I hope this leaves you to start your weekend on a much needed positive note!

Until next week,

Shivani

 

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