'Bootcamp' for Muslim women interested in politics?

5:11 pm on 24 August 2019

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has promised to help Muslim women who are interested in politics.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the Kilbirnie Mosque.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the Kilbirnie Mosque. Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

About 260 people gathered at Zayed College for Girls in the Auckland suburb of Māngere this morning for the Islamic Women's Council Conference.

After being asked about pathways for the Muslim community to be involved in leadership roles, Ms Ardern said she wanted to create what she called a "politics bootcamp".

"I would love for us to create a forum where we can spend some time together as... politicians and women with those who are interested in taking on leadership roles."

Ms Ardern said she wanted to come back to Auckland to have that discussion.

For 18-year-old Weaam Bassiouni, who helped organise the conference, that was exciting news.

"I think it's a really good idea - definitely an opportunity that a lot of these girls wouldn't normally get."

Problems of racism and discrimination were also brought up at the conference and Ms Ardern acknowledged that the government needed to do better in making the school curriculum and public service more diverse.

"Dealing with unconscious bias was something that was required in our professional fields including those who interact with our communities the most - teachers, healthcare workers and public servants."

The prime minister also acknowledged the burden of advocacy Muslim women have had to carry despite still grieving from the attacks of 15 March.

Miss Bassiouni said while the mosque shootings would always be important, a lot of people wanted to move forward and look towards the future.

"We didn't want to make this conference something that was pushing March 15 all the time.

"We wanted it to be a bit of a break actually because I think a lot of people are exhausted and they just want to relax and think about something else."

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