Helen Clark – Gender equality a priority human rights issue 4 Jul 2017 SOURCE: Renee Graham, Communications Manager A priority human rights issue New Zealand needs to tackle is gender equality. That's according to former United Nations Development Programme administrator Helen Clark. At the United Nations Association of New Zealand National Conference, NZ's former Prime Minister said the number of women working in governments worldwide peaked in 2011 and hasn't risen since - and that's a concern."On the present trends of the election of women to parliament, it would take 170 years for gender equality. And the World Bank reports there are 155 countries that have some law in the statue books standing in the way of women gaining equal opportunity"."So this is a starting point - let's look at women".Gender Equality is the fifth of 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The goals were designed two years ago by the United Nations, with input from governments, businesses and non-government organisations. They provide an international framework for sectors across society to eradicate poverty and hunger, improve protections for the environment and combat climate change by 2030.The Sustainable Development Goals were a key focus at the two day UNANZ conference in Wellington.Helen Clark also talked about goal number ten, Reduced Inequalities. Extreme poverty has been reduced to less than two per cent in the Asia Pacific region she said, but still inequality is growing."You can crush poverty, but you may still see rising inequality. Some people are doing a lot better than others".Helen Clark believes we need to raise the incomes of our lowest-paid workers much faster than other workers. "Because you're only going to close the income and inequality gap if the poorest people see their incomes grow faster."It was also great to hear Helen talk about what ordinary people can do - to make the Sustainable Development Goals a reality. She urged people to be vocal and push for change. "Ordinary people taking an interest and expressing it through elected representatives, through social media and hoping to see it reflected in party platforms - that's when it's going to live and breathe."