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Creating Space: an Experience of Gender by Jane Prichard

Jane Prichard worked tirelessly for a substantial part of her life to advocate for the rights of women and achieve true gender equality, by founding and supporting NGOs (Non-governmental organizations). In Creating Space, an Experience of Gender she reflects on her leadership legacy: her considerable accomplishments as well as the challenges she faced and lessons learned along the way,

Were it not for a fortuitous moment in her life she may never have discovered her talent for leadership, having always stood back from such a role until then. At the age of 52, she was asked to chair a church social committee. `No’ she was told would not be an option, it was her turn. Jane discovered it was a role she excelled at and from 1990 onwards made it her mission to be a leader in the empowerment of women and girls.

A seminal experience in her life was the opportunity to represent the National Association of Presbyterian Women, of which she was by then President, at the United Nation’s World Conference on Women held in Beijing in September 1995, as an observer.

She found it a tremendous experience to be part of the largest-ever gathering of women and to meet with women from almost every country in the world. The Beijing Conference culminated in the Platform for Action, the conference blueprint for future legislation on issues affecting women.

A call was made for NGOs and civil society to create new spaces to secure human rights and gender justice for all people - especially women and girls.

This inspired her to establish Bridgebuilders in 1996, a sub-regional network for both Christian and secular women. This NGO links existing women’s networks and organizations throughout the Pacific Basin Region. It fosters connections between women and provides a forum for them to voice their common concerns and to be heard at a global level. It continues to advocate for Universal Human Rights, for justice and peace to be achieved for all people, and people-centered sustainable, and ecologically sound environmental development.

With her continued guidance and support, Bridgebuilders has gone from strength to strength. Consultations (conferences) have been held every three years in different locations: Fiji, South Africa, Vanuatu, Taiwan, Samoa, New Zealand, and the Cook Islands.

Jane Prichard went on to establish other NGOs: Pacific Women’s Watch NZ and the Asia-Pacific Regional Council for the International Council of Women Each of these NGOs is still going strong.

Although, in the 35 years after the Beijing Conference, there have been many achievements, there is still a huge amount to be done around the world before true gender equality is achieved. Marginalized women and girls at the edges of society remain severely disadvantaged.

Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 considerable ground was lost. In New Zealand too, women and girls suffered a greater impact on their well-being than men and boys.

In the last chapter, she looks to the future. Drawing on her extensive experience her advice is that for NGOs, with a focus on gender equality, to keep growing and thriving and attract new members, it will be essential for them to create new models of governance and empowerment, and to provide skills training and mentoring-especially for younger women.

Jane Prichard describes herself as a 'non-governmental activist at the coalface of efforts to attain universal human rights at every level.’ Under her leadership, the NGOs she founded have made a positive difference in the lives of many women and girls. She is a wonderful role model.

I found Creating Space, an Experience of Gender a rewarding read. It is a valuable record of her achievements and may well inspire other women, who have leadership potential, to follow in her footsteps.

Reviewer: Lyn Potter

Mary Egan Publishing


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