Deconstructing the patriarchy through the habitual practice of radical inclusion in international trade

Prepared for Auckland Trade and Economic Policy School. Text republished from OpinioNative.

Gender and Trade Panel

University of Auckland

Saturday 5 December 2020


Kia ora tatou katoa!

Ko Carrie Stoddart-Smith tōku ingoa.

No Ngāpuhi me Ngāti Whātua ahau.

Sometimes I lean toward what some might call a “lecturing” but I plan to spare you all that lecturing today – mostly!

For me, the whakapapa of ideas matters in order to make sense of how we got to where we are. For instance, we’re here having this conversation today on gender and trade because a bunch of basic dudes set in motion a system – patriarchy – that would structurally disadvantage women around the world for what has been about two thousand years and then some.

The imposition of that heinous system through colonisation and the subsequent British common law in Aotearoa, displaced the role of wahine Māori and has disadvantaged and discriminated against us for almost two centuries.

Patriarchy devastated our socio-economic structures. Where once we were thriving economically and wahine and tane held dual roles that enhanced balance in the structure. We were considered as equal contributors to the wellbeing of the collective.

Patriarchy distorted the role of wahine Māori in traditional Māori society and generations of Māori men also bought in to it. It impacted our rights over land, our rights to speak on behalf of our people, and our rights to undertake roles that were not considered fitting for a woman in the new society. As a result, over time it impeded the right and ability of many wahine Māori to hold decision making roles in their hapū, iwi, and more recently in commercial entities, and on governance or advisory boards. As wahine Māori, we continue to negotiate and re-negotiate our inclusion in decision making bodies.

I started my business Opinio Native, partly in response to what I considered a perpetual colonisation and the internalised patriarchy that I witnessed as still in existence in many parts of Te Ao Māori. It troubled me that many people would kōrero about colonisation as if its a thing that happened in the past. Unaware that its simply disguised today in structural racism and the continued non-recognition of Māori sovereignty over our lands and resources. This is despite having established instruments such as He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tirene – the Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand, and Te Tiriti o Waitangi – the reo Māori version that the vast majority of Independent Chiefs signed. Both of which sought to assert our continued sovereignty and to advance our trade and resource rights, toward peace in this country.

Our political identities continue to be shaped by these instruments.

So I wanted to carve out a distinct space that would elevate Māori and Indigenous Peoples trade and economic experiences. I especially had women’s voices at top of mind because women have been central to my journey. In fact, I attribute the genesis of my journey to three specific women. Women who unknowingly un-wove the threads that bound me to an old way of thinking and empowered me with the tools I would need later on when the path to indigenous trade revealed itself to me. All three were from this University, where I completed my law degree. And they are all worthy of mentioning by name:

  • Valmaine Toki instilled in me a deep commitment to advancing indigenous rights and interests. To be proud as Māori and to also be comfortable having loud words even though I had a quiet voice.

  • Our previous panellist, Amokura Kawharu unlocked my fascination of international arbitration – a paper I literally took to fill in a gap. But a paper that ultimately led to me pursuing my masters in international trade and relations.

  • And a name I’m sure you all know, a relentless economic justice advocate and a veracious critic of neoliberalism in all its forms – Professor Jane Kelsey who shifted my sights from a narrow legal track toward public policy, and through her practice showed me what pono Pākehā allyship looks like.

Many women since have continued to lift, inspire and support my journey in this space including my tuakana on this panel, Steph Honey.

It is all of these women and many more that I invoked when I was invited to speak on this topic. However, I decided that rather than speaking on technical issues, I would speak on lived experience – toward hope and toward peace.

For me, the opportunity is to be part of the re-write of an inclusive trade story that will shape the next two thousand years. This gives me hope.

We have had some positive movements toward undoing the injustices caused by patriarchal systems and its mate misogyny, including in a trade and economic context. Instruments like the recent Global Trade and Gender Arrangement through the Inclusive Trade Action Group (ITAG), for example. But it will take generations for us all to collectively unlearn the internalised biases and prejudices against women that still exist in a domain dominated and over-protected by men.

As Marion Jensen noted rules only go some way to progressing the unlearning process. Unlearning habits is a much longer game.

Without an ambitious implementation plan for arrangements like ITAG, they will only create short term enthusiasm with no real structural gains. On the 80:20 rule, intention is only 20 percent of the battle. The ITAG agreement is simply that, intention. 80 percent more effort must go in to the implementation.

I appreciate measurable and achievable targets for evidence based policy purposes, but it’s going to require more than promoting a few women centred activities to sustain that long term momentum toward structural change.

Also, what I’ve learned through the works of Ani Mikaere and Linda Tuhiwai Smith is that we don’t unlearn anything by shying away from our discomfort.

If we are to create an inclusive trade story then that must begin with the uncomfortable – to build trust by deconstructing the patriarchy through the habitual practice of radical inclusion in international trade. This won’t be achieved with pen and paper or through the dialogue of appeasement. It can only be achieved through a commitment to the redistribution of power.

Redistribution of power is not complex. It is not about renouncing or supplanting power. It’s fundamentally about sharing. Look at who holds power, and who doesn’t and share it with them. Their perspectives matter.

Perspectives is important here. When I think about inclusion in trade I think about diversity and arrive at perspectives. The perspectives of women in general. But importantly, the perspectives of women of colour. Disabled Women. Trans Women. Young women. Old women. Women who experience marginalisation due to multiple and overlapping social, political, cultural and class identities as sites of discrimination.

Women are not homogenous. As such, inclusion must be radical. It must always be striving for the greatest and broadest level of representation. Because the greatest potential for this Gender and Trade dialogue, in my view, is the step change toward trading in perspectives through radical inclusion so that we can change the narrative for the next two thousand years.

We must peer beneath the technical surface of trade to the core of it all: enduring relationships built on trust and respect toward a mutual peace. For Māori, this is the essence of whanaungatanga.

At this point, I  first mihi to Chris Karamea Insley, Chair of Te Taumata – a staunch supporter and enabler of my journey this year and many other wahine of my generation. I look to Te Taumata though to emphasise that gender representation is equally an issue for Māori in the trade sector.

At a macro-level, the establishment of a Māori Trade Advisory Board that has one wahine representative out of a total of 8 members despite there being a population of almost twenty thousand more wahine than tane must be acknowledged.

I note that Te Taumata has committed to convening a range of technical working groups, alternates and to co-opt specific expertise where required to undertake its work programme. But the question remains whose expertise, by whose measure and toward what end?

Wahine have been doing highly technical work across all parts of Te Ao Māori for decades without formal qualification, official recognition or decision making capacity. There is an opportunity for Te Taumata to lead on gender and trade. And I can tell you, this is something I know that Chris and others are very mindful of.

Te Taumata taking a lead in this kaupapa would signify how new modes of organisation function. It would help restore the dual roles of wahine and tane in Te Ao Māori in our new context. Afterall, wahine play a critical role from our creation to our deaths and beyond.

To practice radical inclusion, Te Taumata could bring into the balance a Mana Wahine Taumata that shares power with it. That uses our collective insights and perspectives in a way familiar to our tupuna. To value trading in perspectives to validate our knowledge systems and enhance our understandings of and relationships to everything in this world. This is what we know in our bones.

Radical inclusion is visible and it is felt. Radical inclusion is at the centre of how Māori have survived the journey to Aotearoa and our early experiences of colonisation.

Traci Houpapa recently surmised at the Tāmaki Makaurau Taki Hua Economic Summit that we need ecosystems not hierarchies. This ITAG arrangement is an opportunity to build that.

We can build these ecosystems from the edges where diversity thrives.

Therefore, my call to action to you all here today – in person and online – is to include an action toward establishing perspective ecosystems in the implementation of the ITAG arrangement. I ask that you all open your minds to new forms of organisation. To commit to sharing power. To advance toward trade in perspectives so you can become an enabler of systems change.

Let us all contribute to rewriting the trade story for the next two thousand years. A story of radical inclusion in international trade.

No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

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