Refugees in New Zealand
With 65.6 million displaced individuals worldwide, including 22.5 million refugees, issues of refugee resettlement have become increasingly important. Even when countries do accept refugees, finding employment and housing can often be difficult, and refugees may find that the local community is resistant to their presence. To combat some of these issues, Pomegranate Kitchen, an organization that provides catering services, was formed in 2016 exclusively to employ female refugees in New Zealand as cooks, offering them work that allows them to use skills they already possess and share their cultural food with others.

Disputes Over New Zealand’s Refugee Quota

New Zealand, which currently has a population of 4.7 million, has taken in more than 33,000 refugees since World War II. The nation prides itself on having a strong resettlement program: all refugees in New Zealand spend their first six weeks at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Center (MRRC), which has programming designed to prepare refugees for life in the nation, including how to find employment and housing. Additionally, the government has launched a community sponsorship pilot program that will assist in refugee resettlement, providing English language classes and helping refugees navigate their communities.

However, New Zealand has faced criticism for the low number of refugees that they accept. The nation maintained a yearly quota of 750 refugees from 1987 until 2016, when the government raised the quota to 1,000 in response to claims by surrounding nations that New Zealand was not doing its part in sharing the burden of the global refugee crisis. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the labor-led government pledged in the summer of 2018 to further increase the yearly quota to 1,500, although there is currently no timeline for this change.

Pomegranate Kitchen’s Inspiration

Amid these discussions of quotas and costs, Rebecca Stewart, the co-founder of Pomegranate Kitchen, wants to bring the human element of the refugee crisis back into focus. She founded Pomegranate Kitchen in October of 2016 with her step-mother, Angie Winther, to provide employment opportunities for female refugees in New Zealand. Although Stewart and Winther do not have the ability to resolve government debates, they are doing what they can by making a difference for refugee women living in their community.

The inspiration for Pomegranate Kitchen came when Stewart worked for the Red Cross and saw the difficulties many refugees had in finding employment due to language barriers and lack of experience. Stewart believes that it is important to focus on the skills that refugees possess and what they can bring to New Zealand’s society.

Growth and Structure of Pomegranate Kitchen

Although the organization started small, Pomegranate Kitchen has developed significantly since 2016. Initially, they shared a kitchen with another restaurant and had to run a PledgeMe campaign to get the business going; now, thanks to community support, the catering service is thriving and hopes to continue to grow. Stewart stated that they have “been really lucky that so many people in the community understand what we’re trying to do and support it.”

Pomegranate Kitchen currently employs cooks from Iran, Ethiopia, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Despite some tensions due to cultural differences, the refugee cooks at Pomegranate Kitchen all get along fairly well and operate within a collaborative, rather than hierarchical, system. Stewart provides training on how to work in a commercial kitchen, including recipe creation, health and safety and stock management, but the women do not need extensive cooking training as they already have significant skills.

Additionally, refugee women are involved at all levels of the organization, including as head chefs and supervisors. This involvement ensures that the voices of the refugees are heard and considered in the decision-making process. Women in higher-level positions are also able to develop new types of skills including managerial, interpersonal and time management.

Benefits to Local Communities

Through Pomegranate Kitchen, refugees in New Zealand have been able to connect with the local community. Pomegranate Kitchen’s cooks use their own recipes to make dishes from their homelands, bringing new cuisine to New Zealand. A refugee from Iraq who works as a cook stated that she found her work rewarding because “people are interested to learn about my culture and enjoy the food we have to offer.” Stewart emphasized the role that Pomegranate Kitchen plays in community building by stating, “Our cooks are sharing their food and bridging the cultural divide.”

Pomegranate Kitchen shows how even small organizations have the potential to make a great difference for refugees in New Zealand. While the government works through decisions on how many refugees should be accepted into the country, it is crucial that the refugees who have been accepted continue to receive the necessary support to build a new life for themselves.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in New Zealand
In New Zealand, 27 percent of children live in income poverty. This means that around 290,000 children struggle with a multitude of difficulties including homelessness, missed meals and lack of heating at home.

In addition to both short-term suffering and long-term financial and health issues for the individual, child poverty in New Zealand costs the national economy more than $6 billion per year. While this phenomenon is long withstanding, the government has recently committed to quantifying and systematically addressing this problem.

Education, Employment and Health Impacts

The measure of child poverty in New Zealand is not legally defined but is generally accepted to be the situation in which the child lives in the home where the household income is below 60 percent of the national average. These children suffer from a number of related harms, including lower educational achievement, diminished employment opportunities and poor health.

The inability to afford a uniform, lunch or other school materials can inhibit a child from attending school, and an unstable home life and hunger can decrease performance in class. In the long run, this influences job opportunities and future income, creating a poverty cycle.

Child poverty also has a significant influence on the health of a child. Those living below the poverty line are six times as likely to die of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI), three times as likely to get sick and twice as likely to need a hospital visit, compared to the average child.

As an adult, these kids are predisposed to develop a number of chronic health problems, including heart disease, addiction, obesity and dental complications. Poor physical health and hardships growing up increase the risk of mental health issues as well.

Government Action

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has made child poverty in New Zealand a government priority, promising to cut child poverty numbers in half over the next decade. The recently submitted New Zealand Child Poverty Reduction Bill commits the government to make child poverty a priority, sets targets for which the government is directly accountable and requires transparent reporting about national child poverty levels. It currently has cross-party support, as well as endorsements from many organizations and advocacy groups.

Many aspects of the bill rely on recommendations from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC), focusing on children’s rights and well-being with an emphasis on including family and community context. Some of the steps outlined in the bill include housing assistance, energy payment in the winter, restructuring of benefits for newborns and high-level data reporting.

Government Responsibilities

The government does not currently release statistics on child poverty levels. Budget impact and progress reports required by the bill would provide a legal framework for determining these programs and gauging the success of the outcomes.

While government commitment inspires hope, to make a significant decrease in levels of child poverty in New Zealand strong policy solutions must be implemented and the budget must be adapted to support those programs. Adoption of the Child Poverty Reduction Bill would hold the government accountable by law to alleviate child poverty, thereby improving the lives of a significant portion of the population.

Many of the recommendations and programs proposed by the bill have proven to be successful in other countries around the world, offering confidence that the children of New Zealand can have a brighter future if the government continues to take action.

Georgia Orenstein
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Fiji
Fiji is currently in the midst of altering their education system to better incorporate girls and empower them to lead more fulfilling lives. About 83 percent of students in Fiji — both male and female — complete their compulsory education; however, it has been found that girls’ education in Fiji lacks STEM subjects and menstrual health.

Fijian Culture and Views About Women

The culture of Fiji has remained traditional, and until the early 2000s, still viewed its women as inferior to its men. The World Bank reported that in 2012, young girls — although educated — were often domesticized directly after completing their compulsory education.

It was noted in the same World Bank report that boys are more likely to focus their attention on making money, while girls are expected to live almost solely within the home. As of 2016, 41 percent of women and 76 percent of men work in the labor force of the Fiji Islands.

To change the outcome of girls’ future, the Fiji government is encouraging young girls to engage more with nontraditional, ‘non-female’ education tracks like math, physics and science. Leadership works to accomplish such prioritization through altering education systems to index young girls’ early education towards these STEM subjects. However, the World Bank found that in 2013, only 3.88 percent of the country’s GDP is spent on education.

Changing the STEM Status Quo

Nevertheless, Fiji’s government has promised to alter its education budget so that primary and secondary education facilities throughout Fiji receive proper funding for STEM subjects. The purpose of pushing these subjects is to encourage young girls (and later women) of Fiji to pursue careers in technological, mathematical and scientific fields, which have historically been dominated by men.

This gender disparity in STEM fields can be seen at the Water Authority of Fiji (WAF), an organization formed by the Fiji government to provide a sustainable and effective water system for the country. As of 2017, only four percent of the engineering and technical staff and about 25 percent of the entire staff of WAF are female.

This gender imbalance at WAF can be traced back to gender stereotypes that dominate much of Fiji’s culture, and discourage women from entering male-dominated fields.

Finding Empowerment Through Education

To combat much of the traditional gender segregation embedded in the mindset of Fiji’s society, The World Bank suggests that Fiji begin to teach courses on gender, like the empowerment of women, in schools.

Fiji also has struggled to teach young girls about menstrual health and hygiene due to shaming. Fiji’s education board classifies menstrual health as a ‘women-only’ issue and therefore does not educate male students about the subject. This separation has created a divide in education amongst the students and thus the society.

Moreover, labeling menstrual health as a ‘women-only’ issue has made the subject taboo for men in Fiji. This restriction often translates to the shaming women for their education of the topic. UNICEF’s menstrual health and hygiene assessment found that the number one reason girls are dissuaded from continuing with education in menstrual health is that of the taunting they receive from their male counterparts.

Female Under-Representation in Leadership

As a result of the inadequate girls’ education in Fiji, there remains a major under-representation of women in senior positions of power — in parliament, managerial roles, deans of education and many others. The Human Rights Commission found that in 2016, only 16 percent of Fiji’s parliament was made up of women.

Moreover, as of 2004, only five percent of directors of publicly listed companies were women, 14 percent of legal partnerships were held by women, and about 15 percent of professors and associate professors at universities in New Zealand were female.

Much of the inconsistencies amongst genders comes from the cultural norms of New Zealand. The norm of New Zealand is that the woman cares for the home and the children, while the man works. As a country, New Zealand has struggled to shake the idea of the “domestic woman” and the “working man” from its public perception. Consequently, women’s jobs, girls’ education and overall female opportunities have suffered.

Attaining Equality for Girls’ Education in Fiji

Fiji has strived for equality and has recognized that their major setbacks — particularly in girls’ education — are hindering them from reaching such a goal. These setbacks are large and are deeply rooted in the cultural norms of the country.

Nevertheless, the fight for girls’ education in Fiji has remained firm in ensuring that the government’s promise — to provide female students with equal opportunities — is pushed through to completion. It remains to be seen, however, how Fiji’s government will further drive the equality agenda, and how much of a priority equal education will continue to be.

– Isabella Agostini
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in New Zealand

According to UNICEF, one in five children in New Zealand live in income poverty. About 8 percent of these children face severe hardships. Disturbingly, these figures on child poverty in New Zealand have hardly changed in the past decade.

Poverty in New Zealand should by no means be confused with poverty in a developing or underdeveloped country. When we talk about child poverty in New Zealand, it is in comparison to developed nations, particularly the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) nations. While a lack of economic and financial stimuli are the primary reasons for poverty in a developing country, these are in a state of equilibrium for a developed nation like New Zealand. Any efforts to address poverty are met by social, cultural and economic forces pushing people into poverty. Poverty in New Zealand is mostly entrenched in provincial parts of the country, where it coincides with high rates of drug dependency, poor health outcomes, high crimes and multi-generational cycles of disadvantage. Incremental changes at the margins would not significantly impact levels of poverty; a “circuit breaker” approach is needed.

Having said that, within New Zealand’s context, poverty exists despite historically high employment rates and excellent tax breaks and benefits. The forces driving poverty in New Zealand are not as simple as unemployment or inadequate state benefits.

Child poverty in particular imposes a considerable burden on a nation’s economy, and if left unresolved for a long time can severely damage its long-term prosperity. New Zealand currently spends upwards of $6 billion per year on remedial interventions. Failure to alleviate child poverty now will undermine the country’s achievements in areas like reduction in child abuse, total educational attainment and improvement in skill levels while hurting its longstanding economic advantage.

In 2016, when UNICEF’s Innocenti Report was published, it provided an assessment of child well-being, neonatal mortality, suicide, mental health, drunkenness and teen pregnancy across the OECD countries and the European Union. New Zealand was ranked 34 out of the 41 countries assessed and was in the bottom quarter for many of the measures used. In addition, New Zealand also has the highest rate of adolescent suicide of any country in the report, about two and a half times the average of 6.1. This humbling report on child poverty in New Zealand opened up a country-wide debate, with Kiwis demanding solutions from the government.

In 2012, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner submitted its report detailing 78 recommendations, each addressing some form of child poverty. Most recently, in order to contribute to the national conversation on poverty reduction, TacklingPovertyNZ conducted a series of workshops and came up with a list of seven suggestions to tackle poverty. These suggestions include simplifying and standardizing the benefit system, giving more benefits to regions of high need, revisiting the role of the state as the employer of last resort, investing in “hard” regional infrastructure,
investing significantly in mental health, targeting behavioral drivers of poverty and introducing asset-based assistance for high risk children.

While these suggestions seem credible and executable, it is often the case that credible policy options are always scrutinized under the political microscope of feasibility, lack of profile or degree of freedom from the status quo. Most policies that are known to work and are shown to be politically feasible have either been implemented or are under consideration. However, it is only by looking at policies that lie outside the range of political feasibility that we stand a realistic chance of identifying new ideas that might actually make a significant difference.

Jagriti Misra

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in New Zealand

A Brief Background
A series of battles between 1843 and 1872 took place between Britain and the Polynesian Maori living on the island of New Zealand. This culminated in a British victory, marking the beginning of the island’s involvement with Western history. The newly- founded colony gained independence from Britain in 1907. New Zealand then participated in numerous wars alongside Britain until modern day. Currently, the nation has a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council.

Water Quality In New Zealand
The water quality in New Zealand is high when compared to other countries around the world. The rivers, lakes and wetlands provide the environment necessary for a wide variety of plants and animals to flourish. Rural areas today have seen no issues with the water quality.

The urban regions, however, suffer from having a substantially lower water quality when compared to the country’s more rural areas. In recent years, increased land use has caused its water to become increasingly polluted. Another reason for the increased land use concerns the nation’s agricultural sector. The beef and dairy industries in New Zealand have little regulation and companies involved often do not take efforts to ensure its waste does not contaminate local water supplies. This increased land use has disastrous implications for the aquatic life, drinking water supplies and water-based recreation in New Zealand’s economy.

As the water quality in New Zealand continues to decrease, so does the country’s available amount of sanitized drinking water. This negatively impacts the nation’s section of its economy that relies on fresh water.

The Plan For 2040
Prime Minister Bill English has created a new action plan to make 90 percent of the country’s waterways swimmable by 2040. The government hopes to accomplish this goal changing its water quality guidelines. Another method being implemented involves increasing subsidies to farms that are not polluting nearby water sources by $2 billion in the next 23 years.

Overall, the water quality in New Zealand is high in its rural regions; however, in more urban areas, increased land use and environmentally dangerous farming practices have reduced its water quality significantly. Nevertheless, the future looks bright for this country as long as the Prime Minister continues his action plan to improve the quality of water in New Zealand.

Nick Beauchamp

Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in New Zealand
Unlike other countries, New Zealand does not use an official poverty line. Generally speaking, the understanding is that with an income level set at 60% of median household disposable income after housing costs, it is reasonable to expect that this will prevent the worst effects of poverty.

It is also generally understood that poverty in New Zealand can entail hunger and food insecurity, poor health outcomes, reduced life expectancy, debt and poor housing. One in seven households in New Zealand experiences poverty, which includes about 230,000 children overall.

Māori and other Pacific peoples represent the majority of people living in persistent poverty in New Zealand, along with beneficiaries and single parents. Welfare benefits in New Zealand are not enough for someone to live on, much less with dignity.

Emergency assistance resources are stretched, and housing assistance is not always adequate. The gap between the rich and the poor is still large and not shrinking anytime soon.

One of the prevailing myths in New Zealand and other places is that those on welfare or other benefits have an inherent lazy character and lack a work ethic. While unemployment remains high, many jobs available to those on benefits are insecure and do not pay as well as full-time permanent jobs. Furthermore, those on benefits often deal with outside factors, like health issues and disabilities, that make working a job difficult.

The approximately 230,000 children living in poverty in New Zealand may add economic and social cost to New Zealand society later on because their problems were not addressed. Many are at risk for further health problems both physical and mental and have a higher risk of having to be involved in the justice system. Currently, this costs $2 billion or so every year.

Child poverty in New Zealand remains the most pressing issue of social justice. However, if there are people willing to help, there is still reason for hope.

Ellen Ray

Photo: Pixabay

The small number of refugees New Zealand takes in ranks them 90th per capita in resettlement. After making adjustments considering wealth and population, the ranking falls to 116th. Many countries in Europe are critical of the small number of refugees New Zealand takes in. Here is a look at 10 facts about New Zealand refugees that may be a surprise.

  1. The New Zealand government works with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to offer refugees permanent resettlement in New Zealand.
  2. In 2016, after more than 30 years, New Zealand increased their refugee quota from 750 to 1000.
  3. New Zealand accepts refugees from the following major groups: Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Colombia, Myanmar, Rohingya and Syria.
  4. Refugees undergo background checks before being allowed to live in New Zealand.
  5. The needs and services required by refugees are determined prior to their arrival.
  6. Refugees must complete a six-week reception program at Auckland’s Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre (MRRC). The program helps refugees build social and coping skills and provides information regarding work and employment expectations.
  7. The Refugee Resettlement Strategy has five goals:
    · All refugees of working age have a job and income or are supported by a family member with a paying job.
    · All refugees actively participate in life in New Zealand and have a keen sense of belonging.
    · Ensure the health and well-being of refugees and their families.
    · Refugees can speak English well enough to allow them to participate in school and daily activities.
    · Refugees live in homes that are safe, secure, clean and affordable without assistance from government housing.
  8. Refugees settle in six regions: Auckland, Hamilton, Manawatu, Wellington, Nelson and Dunedin.
  9. Family reunification is when a refugee living in New Zealand applies for a family member to receive a visa. Refugees coming to New Zealand on a Refugee Family Support Category visa do not receive financial assistance from the government or any of the resettlement assistance provided to refugees.
  10. Refugees who fear serious harm or cruel treatment if they return to their country of origin can apply for asylum. In 2013-14 New Zealand granted refugee status to 69 asylum seekers — a dismally low number when compared to countries such as Hungary (129, 203) and Sweden (228,601).

The Syrian refugee crisis in addition to 59.5 million people forced to flee their country of origin have drawn the attention of the world and highlighted the woefully small number of refugees New Zealand is willing to take in. These 10 Facts about New Zealand refugees make it clear that they have a strategy that helps refugees make a smooth transition from living in their country of origin to living in New Zealand. Sadly, it also highlights the unwillingness of New Zealand to stand with their international partners and do their fair share.

Mary Barringer

Photo: Flickr

New Zealand ranks high in health status and social connections. It’s at the top among developed nations for its quality of life. However, poverty in this country is excessive among inhabitants and it is mainly affecting the children. Sadly, child poverty in New Zealand is at its all-time high.

According to UNICEF, child poverty is a harsh reality in New Zealand. About 295,000 children are currently living in poverty. Children who grow up in poverty live in overcrowded homes, do not have adequate clothes for the weather and go hungry for days at a time. This can lead to doing poorly in school, not acquiring jobs, having poor health and turning to a life of crime.

“It’s cut-throat in New Zealand. If you’re struggling you get left behind,” says a New Zealand mother, who was living in a small motel room with her husband and six children. They were living in this room for about two weeks, while the family waited to be placed in a state house. The mother has to deal with two of her children whom are disabled and need to attend special education school. However, the placement of these schools is extremely competitive and hard to secure. Therefore, they are confined to homeschooling with only two picture books. This is the case for many families in New Zealand, who are living below the poverty line.

Child poverty in New Zealand has become a real problem. According to the former head of the University of Auckland pediatrics department Innes Asher, “We have, every year in New Zealand, about 40,000 children… admitted to hospital for diseases that are potentially preventable by solving poverty, housing and great access to healthcare. There’s a lot we could do.”

In 2015, the National-led government budget gave $25 extra to low-income families. However, Asher says this amount is very low, and “certainly does not make up for the $72.50 in tax credits three-child families without parents in paid work are missing out on.”

Children and families have been specifically deprived by the government. Despite this fact, there are organizations out there looking for solutions to alleviate the child poverty in New Zealand, like UNICEF, who is raising money to change children’s life.

Solansh Moya

Photo: Flickr

Cook Islands

The Cook Islands is a sovereign island nation in free association with New Zealand. The main island, Rarotonga, is home to 70% of the nation’s estimated 17,800 people. Rarotonga is a small island, measuring approximately 26 square miles, with only one airport to accommodate its primary source of income: tourism.

Tourism constitutes more than half of the nation’s GDP and is the main stimulant of economic growth. However, it also contributes to the growing problem of waste management in the Cook Islands.

Waste collection is provided to all households Monday through Saturday by two private contractors operating in conjunction with the Ministry of Infrastructure Cook Islands (ICI). Businesses are responsible for disposing of their own waste in the sanitary landfill located in Avarua, the most populous district of Rarotonga and the nation’s capital.

The governments of Australia and New Zealand, along with support from the private sector, provide aid to improve the conditions of waste management in the Cook Islands. The Waste Management Facility, managed by ICI, employs three staff members at the landfill and another five at the recycling center. The sanitary landfill was designed in 2006 with an intended lifespan of 15 years but has now reached its capacity.

Avarua is also home to four operational incinerators used to burn garbage, two of which are used solely for airline waste and medical waste and none of which possess emissions control technology. In addition, open burning in backyards and public spaces is a common practice amongst Cook Islanders.

This is a problem, as open burning and the resulting emissions can be detrimental to human and environmental health. Open burning has been proven to emit significantly more harmful pollutants than municipal incinerators, releasing twice as many furans, 17 times as many dioxins and 40 times more ash, as well as carbon monoxide and dioxide, lead, arsenic, mercury, acid vapors and carcinogenic tars.

This not only because is there no emission control, but because open fires burn at lower temperatures, inhibiting complete combustion of the waste being burned. They also operate closer to the ground, increasing the risk of exposure to harmful effects.

Tourism is a major contributor to the abundance of refuse which has made it exceedingly difficult to control in the Cook Islands. However, the income generated from tourism is needed to stimulate the growth of the waste management system. After all, the standard set for tourists has been the principal catalyst for discussion over the development of waste management in the Cook Islands. The government is looking to break this waste cycle by improving facility quality.

Jaime Viens

Photo: Flickr


New Zealand Education
Beyond its stunning landscapes, New Zealand education is among the best in the world. The New Zealand Herald claims New Zealand falls within the top 10 education systems of the world. Therefore, New Zealand is what is called an “education superpower.”

According to statistics from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), New Zealand has the highest total public expenditure on education out of 32 countries. The public school system is extremely well funded and education is free until the last year of high school for citizens and permanent residents.

New Zealand Now says New Zealand education is also extremely good because of Kiwi culture. Kiwi is a term that refers to the people of New Zealand. In Kiwi culture, it is important to give everyone a fair chance and access to the same opportunities — including education.

New Zealand Educational Institute spokesman Paul Goulter told the New Zealand Herald that for Kiwi teachers, “The profession is about teaching children and doing it not for the pay, but for them.” This outlook on education has reaped success. In the 2015 Expat Explorer Survey by HSBC, 70% of parents said their children were more confident and well-rounded after studying in New Zealand.

Education in New Zealand also promotes acceptance and respect for different cultures. According to the New Zealand government, “Our education system reflects our unique and diverse society. We welcome different abilities, religious beliefs, ethnic groups, income levels and ideas about teaching and learning.”

Unlike education in Hawaii, where native languages and culture were not an integral part of the education system until recently, New Zealand promotes the conservation of Maori culture. The Maori people make up 14.6% of New Zealand’s population and can attend Kura Kaupapa Maori.

The Kura Kaupapa Maori are schools that teach in Maori and provide an education based on Maori culture and values. These schools have their own curriculum that focuses on Maori philosophies. Students who graduate from Maori schools then have the opportunity to attend Wananga (Maori teaching and research institutions).

Education in New Zealand is a success story. Schools are not only excellent and accessible to all; they also promote multiculturalism and diversity by emphasizing the importance of maintaining Maori culture. Other regions of the world where multiple cultures coexist should learn from New Zealand’s success.

Christina Egerstrom

Photo: Flickr