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Half of a Discussion on Drones

13 Jul

A few months ago, a newly set-up think tank, Diplosphere, held a panel discussion on drone strikes and whether they are in New Zealand’s interest. Throughout the discussion, people talked about how important it is that a new forum focused specifically on international affairs has started up in New Zealand. This is true and forums like these have the potential to encourage more people to feel part of what’s going on in the wider world and to care about the role New Zealand plays within this.


Speaking to someone involved with Diplosphere afterwards, he commented that he felt they had been able to assemble a diverse range of the panellists who brought very different perspectives to the issue. In many ways this was true; there were law lecturers, a journalist, a politician and an international relations professor. The discussion was interesting and the panellists were well informed, insightful and at times inspiring.


The thing is though, they were also all white men. We’re not just talking about a three-person panel here either; there were six panellists, plus the chair and the event host. That’s eight men and not a single woman. When I raised this issue with someone after the discussion, I was told that it’s difficult because there just “aren’t any women”. Presumably, this meant no women who know enough about drones and international security.

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Can we at least talk about women’s political participation?

14 Jul

Last year, I was involved in promoting women’s political participation during the elections in Sierra Leone and Ghana. Women’s representation in parliament in both countries is low, in Sierra Leone it dropped to 12.4% following the election and in Ghana it raised marginally to 10.9%. In both countries, the belief that women are not suited to politics has created many barriers to women’s political participation. Women are marginalised from political party networks which often act as ‘old boys’ clubs; there is frequent verbal (and sometimes physical) violence against female candidates; and the often inflexible demands of political life make it difficult for many women to balance a career in politics with childcare responsibilities.

Before working on this, I had no idea what the rate of women’s representation in parliament was in New Zealand so I looked it up one day. It was 32%. That’s low I thought, someone should talk about it. Then I forgot about it again until it was brought up a week ago when it became public that a proposal from Labour’s national council to use affirmative action policies to increase the number of female Labour MPs would be voted on at the party’s annual conference in November. As part of the proposal, a target would be set to have women make up 45 % of Labour MPs by 2014 and 50 % by 2017. Along with this, a list moderating committee would ensure the correct ratio of women get into parliament and Local Electorate committees could ask the NZ Council to assign certain seats as only open for women’s selection.

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Well-articulated rant #3

20 Jun

This week, ElevenHoursAhead will be publishing the thoughts of current and former students on the real value of the student allowance system. Here is today’s personal reflection from Raven Cretney:

“I am the first person in my family to go to a university, it was an incredibly big deal to my Mother who wasn’t able to get a degree. I now wish to continue my post graduate studies as I would love to teach at a tertiary level. But I will not be able to continue my studies unless I, by some good grace of god, get a scholarship (btw the government has also cut $6.3million from their scholarship fund). I was raised in the generation of Ruthenasia, which appears to have not yet ended. For me the cuts to the student allowance are about justice with austerity. We all acknowledge and know we are in too much debt, as citizens and as nations. But our youngest and oldest generations are unfairly paying for the baby boomer generation to continue their reign of privilege, they have had free education, near free health care and they are now beginning to collect non-means tested superannuation. The austerity needs to be fairly shared, not placed on us as students and on our oldest citizens in the form of health care cost hikes and increased power bills. It is simply not how a fair society operates. We want our situation to be acknowledged and for us not to be subject to austerity measures over and above what others are facing simply because we are guilty of being young.”

A week of well-articulated rants

17 Jun

The idea behind this series of ‘well-articulated rants’ in which past and former students give their thoughts on the real value of the student allowance was triggered by an idiotic comment on facebook about students. The comment was nothing new, the same old ‘well why don’t they get a job and start contributing to society’ mantra that is often repeated but rarely elaborated on. However in the context of the changes to the student allowance system to which the person was referring, the comment took on new significance. It had become an opinion that the government had effectively sanctioned through their decision to cut allowances to post-graduate students. During the coming week, ElevenHoursAhead will be posting the thoughts of past and current students on the flaws in this new policy. The criticisms come from many angles ranging from the impracticality of the policy change and its unethical nature to broader concerns about the type of society it will contribute to creating.

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