Goal Five: Gender Equality

SDG 5: A plan to enhance Gender Equality in New Zealand through volunteering

“Any serious shift towards more sustainable societies has to include gender equality.” Helen Clark

New Zealand is well-placed to promote and advance the gender equality goals of the UN’s Sustainable Development agenda

The success and failure of MDG 3 “Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women”

Promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women has long been part of the UN’s development goals.

Fifteen years before the current Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were introduced, one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) targeted the promotion of gender equality and empowerment. While the MDGs focused most on developing nations, their success led to the current international agenda, targeting a more sustainable vision for gender equality.

In 2015, the United Nations published their review of the Millennium Development Goals, reporting that since 1995, more than 90% of the 174 countries listed have increased the number of women in their parliament.

Goal 5: Gender Equality

Further, the proportion of women in these parliaments has nearly doubled during the same period. However, only one in five members of these parliaments are women. There is still a long way to reach gender parity in parliaments around the world.

Looking back: New Zealand history on Gender Equality

In 1893, our country became the first in the world in which all women had the right to vote in parliamentary elections. In most other democracies – including the United Kingdom and the United States – women did not win the right to vote until after the First World War. Even later, France — sometimes called “le pays des droits de l’Homme,” — only granted women the right to vote at the end of the Second World War.

Earlier in this 21st century in New Zealand, women simultaneously held each of the country’s top constitutional positions: Governor-General, Prime Minister, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Justice, Attorney-General, and Cabinet Secretary. A woman also headed the country’s largest private corporation. Following the 2014 election, 31% of our Members of Parliament were female, compared with 9% in 1981.

Looking forward: Volunteers’ contribution to Goal 5 for New Zealand

It’s the case that the Sustainable Development Goals concern every country on the planet, not only developing countries. As a signatory to the SDGs, New Zealand has a commitment to work towards Goal 5 “Gender Equality”: achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.

To follow the gender equality path, people can make an impact by volunteering for women’s empowerment and rights.

Awareness is always a good start to contributing to the SDGs. Awareness should not only be exercised by adults but also by our children. It is important to talk about gender equality with the younger generation who will become our future leaders.
Many different New Zealand volunteer-involving organisations contribute to gender equality, including GirlGuiding and Girls’ Brigade New Zealand, who do this by empowering girls and women; Women’s Refuge does this by helping to prevent and stop family violence and YMCA New Zealand does this by connecting people from all ages and all backgrounds.

The National Council of Women in New Zealand (NCWNZ) has made strides in this direction. Recently, the NCWNZ held a conference on Gender Equality.
In addition, the NCWNZ has also released a white paper identifying five prerequisites to a gender equal New Zealand. It includes:

    1.  forming a shared understanding of the issues,
    2. creating a gender positive culture,
    3. ensuring a leadership and governance,
    4.  structural equality, and
    5. data and monitoring.

To progress gender equality, volunteers can speak out against sexism by creating and supporting campaign to ensure we have the right policies in place, and encourage leaders to champion gender equality within their sectors, industries, communities.
To contribute to gender equality, volunteers should also act to improve New Zealand’s laws and systems. By joining committees and organisations involved in the achievement of gender equality, volunteers are able to have a major impact by acting together.

As the first country in the world to enact women’s suffrage, New Zealand has a proud history involving gender equality, and volunteers can take part of this journey towards Goal 5 of achieving gender equality and empower all women and girls. Thus, by volunteering, we can collectively have a direct impact on the present and future outcomes for women and girls of New Zealand.

Oriane Mousset
Oriane Mousset is a policy advisor at VNZ researching the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the role of volunteerism in the development agenda. Contact her at

Volunteers: A key stakeholder for a sustainable future

“If our hopes of building a better and safer world are to become more than wishful thinking, we will need the engagement of volunteers more than ever. Kofi Annan (Seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) from 1997 to 2006.)

The path to recognition

Since 2012, some volunteering-involving organisations (VIO) like Volunteer Service Abroad have been active during all the politicians’ debates and negotiations. They have advocated within an international alliance initiated and led by the International Forum for Volunteering in Development (Forum) and UN Volunteers. These groups lobbied to acknowledge VIO as important stakeholders in the SDGs achievement.

For instance, in 2014, in its Lima Declaration, the Forum stated than sustainable development is not possible without volunteers. Forum members called for United Nations’ member states to recognise VIOs as key stakeholders for the SDGs achievement.[1]

An official recognition of volunteering role


In December 2014, the Synthesis Report of the Secretary-General on the bold Post-2015 Agenda recognized volunteering as a “powerful and cross-cutting means of implementation” for the SDGs.[2]This report stressed volunteers’ ability to expand and mobilize constituencies and to engage people in the SDGs planning process. The report also emphasised the role of volunteering in providing new opportunities for interactions between governments and their people to arrive at achievable actions that can make an impact. So then, volunteerism can bring the new Post-2015 Agenda to the local level.

Since the Synthesis Report, volunteer groups have expressly been recognised as stakeholders in the 2030 Agenda by the UN Resolution – A/RES/70/1 “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development[3]. This major step forward confirmed and strengthened the role of volunteering for the achievement of the SDGs.

Global partnership: A key commitment


In the 2030 Agenda, The UN stated that a newly revitalised and enhanced Global Partnership is vital to achieve the SDGs. The UN and Governments cannot complete the 2030 Agenda without each other. To achieve these 17 ambitious goals, people’s engagement in planning, implementation and monitoring needs to be facilitated. It is undeniable that the traditional means of implementation need to be completed to facilitate people’s participation and engagement from all sectors.

The 17th goal, “Partnership for goals”, reflects the importance of a new participation through partnership. This goal targets partnership for the goals, at all levels, which requires cross-sector collaboration from all sectors; from the government to the private sector, the community and voluntary sector. Contribution from civil society, communities, business leaders, and volunteers is a key element to support the government’s position on the SDGs.

Strategy and action plan

In order to contribute to the SDGs, we need to plan our actions and contributions for these coming 15 years. All the governments will need to plan their strategy and their main objectives regarding to their own situations. What is the New Zealand government position on the SDGs? How does Volunteering New Zealand (VNZ) plan to contribute to the SDGs achievement? How does VNZ plan to support VIOs during this 15-year period? What types of actions can VIOs take to contribute to the SDGs?

We will discuss these topics on our next article. For a summary on the SDGs and volunteering, click on the link below.

The Sustainable Development Goals summary

[1] International Forum for Volunteering in Development

[2] Synthesis Report of the Secretary-General On the Post-2015, Agenda

[3] Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform


Oriane Mousset
Oriane Mousset is a policy advisor at VNZ researching the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the role of volunteerism in the development agenda. Contact her at


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