Clark takes time out to share her story

The Southland Times - - News - Ben Bootsma

These days He­len Clark de­scribes her­self as a free­lance pub­lic ad­vo­cate, and that means putting her expertise and pas­sion be­hind global is­sues.

The en­dear­ing ti­tle of ‘‘Aunty He­len’’ may not be as for­mal as her other roles: for­mer New Zealand prime min­is­ter, for­mer United Na­tions Devel­op­ment Pro­gramme leader and wlong-serv­ing Labour leader, but it seems more fit­ting as Clark con­tin­ues her fo­cus on women’s lead­er­ship and gen­der equal­ity.

As a free­lance pub­lic ad­vo­cate, that role, she says, is work­ing on global is­sues about which she is pas­sion­ate – rang­ing from sus­tain­able devel­op­ment, in­clud­ing cli­mate ac­tion, pub­lic health is­sues and ev­i­denced-in­formed drug pol­icy.

Clark will be in In­ver­cargill on Wednesday to speak at a KIND Women event.

This year, dur­ing the 125th suf­frage cel­e­bra­tions, she also be­came the new pa­tron of the Na­tional Coun­cil of Women.

Clark has been out­spo­ken about New Zealand’s ‘‘hor­ri­ble’’ do­mes­tic vi­o­lence statis­tics, and said the cy­cle had to change, be­fore the coun­try would see change.

‘‘I be­lieve we have to break the cy­cle of vi­o­lence by in­vest­ing heav­ily in fam­ily ser­vices and pos­i­tive par­ent­ing.

‘‘The cy­cle be­gins in the home. Chil­dren who are ex­posed to that grow up see­ing it as the way peo­ple be­have to­wards each other.

‘‘New Zealand should study what is work­ing well in other so­ci­eties and look to adapt best prac­tice to our con­text and to in­no­vate.’’

New Zealand had a wellestab­lished his­tory of hav­ing strong fe­male lead­ers, Clark said.

When asked if the cur­rent prime min­is­ter was fac­ing dif­fer­ent chal­lenges to what Clark ex­pe­ri­enced in of­fice, she said: ‘‘It is well es­tab­lished in New Zealand that we will have women prime min­is­ters. As a young woman at the top, Jacinda Ardern is fac­ing some chal­lenges that I did not face.

‘‘Yet around the world we see young peo­ple ris­ing to top po­si­tions.

‘‘We should embrace and wel­come fresh ideas and per­spec­tives which they bring to pub­lic life.’’

Clark has re­cently pub­lished Women, Equal­ity, Power: Se­lected speeches from 35 years of lead­er­ship.

The book’s pub­li­ca­tion was timely be­cause this year marked 125 years of women’s suf­frage, she said. And she will do a book sign­ing while in In­ver­cargill.

Clark has a strong con­nec­tion to the south with South­lander Heather Simp­son hav­ing worked for her for many years as her chief of staff.

Simp­son was listed among New Zealand’s most in­flu­en­tial peo­ple in 2004 by Lis­tener magazine.

When Clark was asked of her im­pres­sion of South­land women,

‘‘I be­lieve we have to break the cy­cle of vi­o­lence by in­vest­ing heav­ily in fam­ily ser­vices and pos­i­tive par­ent­ing. The cy­cle be­gins in the home. ’’

and if she con­sid­ered them strong, feisty or in­de­pen­dent, she replied: ‘‘My im­pres­sion of South­landers is that they are down to earth, direct and hard work­ing.’’

KIND Women mem­ber Re­becca Amuns­den said the group was re­al­is­tic when it thought about try­ing to get He­len Clark to In­ver­cargill.

‘‘We knew it was a long shot, we knew she was busy but we were hope­ful.

‘‘When it was fi­nalised, we were all jump­ing around like it was Christ­mas.’’

The pub­lic re­sponse to Clark’s visit was over­whelm­ing, she said.

‘‘The tick­ets sold out in 12 hours.’’

The event was then moved from Cen­tre Stage to the Civic Theatre to ac­com­mo­date that re­sponse.

‘‘There are still some tick­ets left but we won’t be sur­prised if they sell out,’’ Amuns­den said.

He­len Clark

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