Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Wellington marks suffrage anniversary

This Sunday marks 128 years since women won the right to vote – and today, Wellington City Council’s wāhine toa reflected on the significance of that.

The Electoral Act was passed on September 19th 1893, making New Zealand the first self-governing country in the world where all women had the right to vote in parliamentary elections.

Since then, Wellington City Council has celebrated many women in local politics including Annie McVicar becoming Wellington’s first female Councillor in 1921, Tala Cleverley being sworn in as the first Pasifika Councillor in 1979, Fran Wilde elected as Wellington’s first female Mayor in 1992, and Jill Day becoming the first female Māori Councillor in 2016.

Currently there are 11 female Councillors representing the five wards of the Capital, here’s what some of them had to say about the upcoming anniversary:

Councillor Fleur Fitzsimons

“The campaign for equality for women is as important now as it was when the suffragettes won the right to vote. There is still much to do. We need to close the gender pay gap for all women, end family and sexual violence and ensure women have access to the health and support services they need.”

Councillor Nicola (Mary Jacobina) Young

“My family has a lot of strong women. My great grandmother, Jacobina Luke, felt so strongly about women’s suffrage that she signed the petition twice – no computers in those days! Nowadays we take our right to vote for granted, but it’s vital for democracy that everyone exercises this democratic right to have a say in how we are governed.”

Deputy Mayor Sarah Free

“Women make up 51 percent of the world’s population and of course they should have the right to vote and fully participate in democracy. We can be proud of the fact that in 1893, New Zealand was the first country to grant suffrage to all women. Our right to vote is not something we should ever take for granted however, as we look around internationally to see how easily rights for women and girls can be taken away.”

Councillor Rebecca Matthews

“It’s great to be part of a more diverse group of women councillors including wāhine Māori and young women. More please! And it would be great if we could see more votes from these communities at local government elections next year. Women fought hard to win the vote, we should use it.”

Councillor Jill Day (Ngāti Tūwharetoa)

“I look forward to a suffrage day when the name Meri Te Tai Mangakāhia is as widely known as Kate Sheppard. Her unique contribution to the suffrage movement was significant, but not widely known or shared. The leadership of Meri is as valid today as it was then. There are still many barriers to opportunities for wāhine Māori today, so we must continue to do all that we can to support participation in decision making at all levels.”

Councillor Laurie Foon

“I acknowledge the bravery and determination of the suffragists who paved the way for me to have the privilege of voting all my life. I am proud to have been able to influence the world through this act. And I’m even prouder to see my daughters start on their journey of influencing change as well.”

Councillor Tamatha Paul (Ngāti Awa and Waikato Tainui)

“Wāhine Māori in pre-colonial times were not prevented from participating in rangatiratanga. It was colonisation that sought to diminish their mana as well as keeping all women outside of the halls of power. Aotearoa has consistently punched above its weight and the spirit in which wāhine smashed through that glass ceiling 128 years ago lives on through my hoa mahi (colleagues) and I today.”

Councillor Iona Pannett

“The leadership of wāhine toa and Pākehā women in winning the vote for all women in Aotearoa was an incredible achievement and one we can honour every day by ensuring that all women are able to exercise leadership in every aspect of life.  Everyone wins when traditionally under-represented groups are able to participate fully.” 

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