Speaking at a panel discussion held on the lawn of parliament on Thursday, International Women’s Day, Wichman spoke of this country’s considerable progress from when her grandmother cast her first vote back in 1965.
She also highlighted the importance of the 5th United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal: “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.”
“The Cook Islands has good figures in access to education and providing the health care needed to ensure our women and their families are healthy and happy, but we lag in pay levels and political representation,” she said.
“My professional colleagues will challenge me and say, ‘How will more representation at varying levels help?’
“It’s simple: better representation will fuel more social and economic opportunities that will benefit all of us, not just our women.”
Quoting a United Nations document Wichman added: “indeed, gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but is a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.”
Wichman said that in 2015 the UN and over 192 countries had signed off on working to achieve as many sustainable development goals as possible before 2030.
However, she addressed one major challenge the Cook Islands faced in achieving the targets.
“Our leaders signed off on ambitious international targets, but they aren’t targets our women would be comfortable with.
“One of the reasons being this target hasn’t been put in perspective for our socio-cultural setting. This is not an excuse to water down our targets, it is however, a good opportunity to strategise and compose bite-sized steps that move us up and out of the structures that we live in.”
Wichman honoured the achievements Cook Islands women had made so far, and thanked Ardern for her attendance at this year’s International Women’s Day function.
“I’d like to honour this day on behalf of my council as this; International Women’s Day 2018, the day the prime minister of New Zealand visited and celebrated with us.”