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Count us in!

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2015 International womens dayNZNO’s representatives on the Council of Trade Unions Women’s Council discuss what International Women’s Day on 8 March means to them. Lyn Olsthoorn is the NZNO representative on the NZ Council of Trade Unions Women’s Council and co-chair as well. Georgia Choveaux is the StandUp representative on the Council. StandUp is the youth arm of the union movement.

Both Lyn and Georgia are passionate advocates for workers rights, women’s rights and hold a firm belief in the power of collective action to change lives, workplaces and society.

Lyn: Well hello Georgia, what a lovely way for us to have a conversation! For me, the way to honour the theme of this International Women’s Day, “Count us in!” is by telling our stories. I love listening to a story, thinking about it and passing it on. It feels like it is part of our nature, as women. We enjoy being together and talking about what is important in our lives comes easily.

Georgia: Hey there Lyn. Yeah, and I want more women’s stories, more often. My passion, enthusiasm and commitment to the advancement women is something that kuia , the ones who have gone before me and the one I stand gladly with now (that’s you Lyn!), have gifted me. Their stories of struggle and strife and solidarity and success call me to join them like no flyer or facebook invite ever could.

Lyn: And it’s not just those who currently stand with us that we should share stories with. Stories are an invitation to other women to come stand with us as we deliver meaningful change. Last weekend I had over an hour talking with a nurse friend about things we value in our community. The conversation developed and we ended up talking about how we had to work six day weeks, every week, when I started my career. She was astounded that we had not always enjoyed a standard 40 hour week! We yarned over that and a whole lot more. My friend is not the kind of person to read a flyer or a paragraph in the paper, but she loved chatting!

Georgia: Yup, when I hear stories like starting nursing with a six day working week, not having paid parental leave, or it being okay, by law, to have a different male and a female pay rates in a collective agreement, I hear that there are changes to be made; we can overcome, and we can win.

Lyn: By sharing our stories we also ensure women are a part of setting the agenda for change. Our stories talk of things that are important to us and our families.  We have never been afraid to fight for our whānau. And let’s not forget that when we fight for our rights, we’re also fighting for the rights of our families and our communities.

Georgia: More broadly too, our stories can not only set the agenda, but reclaim and refocus them. Pay Equity and the Kristine Bartlett case is not really about the legislative interpretation of section 3 (1) (b) of the Equal pay Act 1972. It’s about finally listening to the work stories of those women who do such valuable work and saying at long last – ‘I hear you, I hear about the work you do and the value it has’. It’s about ending the stories of poverty and deprivation of our caregivers on such low wages. And it’s about new stories yet to be written for the women and families who could soon have a life-changing fair wage.

Lyn: So true! Let’s make 2015 a happening year for women and my challenge is to us all. Talk about it, share your stories, and make sure the decision-makers who effect our working and family lives know to “Count us in!”.

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