A couple of matters have caused some furious debate over the past 10 days and they both concern our newly elected Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The first matter was her falling pregnant and the second is women speaking on the marae – pertaining to the same pregnant female.
I was bought up in a New Zealand shaped in the 1960s and 1970s. in those days’ men put out the rubbish and mowed the lawns, while the misses was inside cooking, cleaning, ironing and looking after the kids. The world was clearly black and white then.
If you got School C (certificate), you had the opportunity of proceeding on to UE (University Entrance). If you didn’t get School C, you were destined for the factories down Rosebank Road or construction sites. Simple as that.
You played rugby league, rugby or netball, depending on where you lived, and the country closed down at 6pm Friday and opened again for business at 7.30am Monday. But since then, things have changed – and changed dramatically.
The Prime Minister announcing her pregnancy in the New Year was outstanding, and must be applauded on a number of levels. Firstly, the affirmation of family is the greatest building block of any community and country and has to be asserted and affirmed. Our PM becoming unwittingly pregnant seems to be a bit of a stretch, but a number of us have been there and these things can happen – like it happened six times with me.
The days of believing as soon as a woman gets pregnant that they have to withdraw into the world of motherhood and apple pie is long gone. Men are also having to step up by sharing a number of child rearing activities as women enter the workforce in greater numbers. That’s shown by the legal profession where female lawyers out number male lawyers. It’s the same in engineering school.
Times are changing and a busy prime minister can absolutely fulfil all her obligations to the job and to her family. I have seen busy woman have children, whilst they maintain life as a GP, psychiatrist, receptionist and working in retail. Every one of those jobs is an important one in upholding the family, the community and the country and all women that have given childbirth and are likely to give childbirth must be affirmed and supported, whether they are the prime minister or a woman who chooses to stay home and commit herself to her children.
In terms of women speaking on the marae, I come from a tribal group where we are open to that occurring subject to the merit of that person, the status of that person and therefore the eminence of the position of that person.
I accompanied Helen Clark to the lower marae at Waitangi in 1999. A change of government was in the air and Labour was on the march to become that government. But Helen Clark was belittled on the marae. I was in the backrow and thought some of our leading Maori elder statesmen would intervene on her behalf. That did not occur and it is one of my deepest regrets that I did not stand up and intervene myself.
Jacinda Ardern is a rangatira, and is the premiere of our nation. Given her merit and eminence of her position and her status as Prime Minister of New Zealand, of course she must stand and be
honoured and given the right to speak on the marae. Speakers before and after her will cover off all matters of protocol.
In the event, the Northern people cannot maintain their mana, in acknowledging the prime minister – woman or not – we should cease to honour Waitangi at Waitangi.