Tertiary Women New Zealand

  1. A brief History of the TWFG
  2. TWFG Philosophy
  3. The value of the TWFG and National Women’s Rights Officer (NWRO)
  4. Get involved
  5. Resources
  6. Contact details and links

1. A brief History of the TWFG:

The TWFG is the women’s caucus of the New Zealand Union of Students Associations. We are a collective of past and present women on student’s association executives from tertiary institutions around the country who set women’s policy and run women focused campaigns and events such as Take Back the Night and Thursday in Black.  We have our own operating structure  and three yearly women’s only conferences where we meet, network and share information and experiences. TWFG primarily addresses sexism as it appears within the education system.  However, TWFG also aims to address other inequities such as in wealth, class, ethnicity, sexuality, age and physical ability, as barriers to education.

2. Our philosophy 

Our philosophy and outlook is based in an understanding that discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity, sexuality, class, age and physical ability is currently part of Aotearoa/New Zealand society, denying women equality of opportunity and an equitable share of social and economic advantages and benefits.  Educational institutions have and continue to play a key role in reflecting and reinforcing such discrimination.

The TWFG understands that women, and those who identify as a woman, are affected by discrimination based on their gender.  TWFG understands that society, as it is presently constructed, gives men, as a group, power over women as a group.  Thus TWFG is defines sexism as male privilege that is deployed through social, economic and political institutions and norms. TWFG also recognises that women are not a homogenous group.  Women of different classes, ethnicities, sexual identities, ages, levels of physical ability may have different interests, priorities and needs.  TWFG is committed to acknowledging and addressing these differences in its work and in on-going consultation with other women’s groups and organisations.

3. The value of the TWFG & NWRO

The TWFG argues that sexism, as it relates to education, takes two major forms: First, many women have been either overtly or covertly denied full and equal participation in the social and economic activities that are accorded a high status within our society.  Secondly, the social and economic areas of activity where women tend to predominate, either in terms of numbers or level of influence, are often undervalued. It is crucial that women be able to represent themselves rather than relying on the dominant group to look after their interests. This is why the positions of Women’s Rights officers and the TWFG itself are so important, and why it is that voting is limited to self-identified women. This prevents candidates from appealing to the dominant group – men – at the expense of the group they are to represent (unless otherwise agreed by the TWFG, say, if there is a campus which has no female representatives).

The TWFG and National Women’s Rights Officer (NWRO), who is the spokesperson for the TWFG, must come from a feminist position that recognises that the systemic oppression of women and the denigration of the non-masculine harms everyone and prevents us from evolving an egalitarian society. Affirmative action initiatives to boost the status and safeguard the gains of minorities or marginalised groups are attempts to move towards equity.

Some people will claim that the existence of the NWRO position (especially if there is no equivalent position for men) is sexist, exclusionary and unnecessary. These arguments are based on either the mistaken assumption that society treats men and women equally at this point in history, or the antifeminist assumption that the unequal treatment of men and women is natural and proper.  Because equality is treated as a zero-sum game by those who stand to lose their power and privilege over marginalised people, feminist efforts are often greeted with hostility and fear. It is the TWFG and NWRO’s job to ensure that, despite such obstacles, the interests of women are considered in anything NZUSA does, and that the association strives to ensure fairness for all genders throughout the university experience.

4. Get involved

If you are interested in getting involved with the TWFG, or want to organise an event that relates to Tertiary Women, or would like help with an event you are organising, then fantastic! Get in contact with the nwro@students.org.nz who can advise and help you where necessary.

Here is a list of campaign ideas and events that you could organise to raise awareness about particular issues:

(could collaborate with other groups on campus for some of your campaigns, such as UniQ)

- Thursdays in Black
- Take Back the Night
- Slutwalk
- Women’s Week
- International Women’s Day
- Love your body
- Pay equity
- Student debt
- Gendered Violence
- Discrimination and Harassment
- Reproductive rights and health – contraception, sex ed, maternity care, abortion
- Sexual health and rights – sex positivity, consent, STIs
- Welfare – DPB, TIA, sickness and unemployment benefits
- Intersections of ethnicity and gender – migrant women, privilege within feminism
- Women in academic – representation in the different departments

 Event ideas

- Debates (you could get your campus Debating Society involved)
- Movies screening/movie marathon
- Self defence workshop
- Panel discussions (E.g. on politics, gender quotas, representation, lived experiences, academics)
- Workshops with other groups e.g. Rape Crisis, Family Planning, P3 Foundation
- Lecturers – critiques and criticisms of feminism
- Alison McCulloch from Abortion Law Reform NZ
- Wine and cheese party
- Talk/panel/workshop on feminism
- Cupcake/food orientated event
- Badge/sticker making
- Gig at local venue  E.g. Music, performances, art, poetry

5. Resources:

-  Aotearoa Feminist & Queer Facebook Discussion Groups and Facebook Pages

- Aotearoa Support Centres and Organisations for Women

6. Contact details and links

If you would like any more information, or would like to discuss something pertaining to Tertiary Women, please do not hesitate to get in contact with the current NWRO, Izzy O'Neill; nwro@students.org.nz.

For the latest details on our Thursdays in Black campaign, check out the pages below:

The voice of New Zealand's 400,000 students.

The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations exists to advance the political, social and economic interests of tertiary students whatever they study and wherever they live. NZUSA is a membership body of local students' associatons. We believe in opportunity for all.

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