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Friday, 19 April 2019 04:18 pm

NZ to whakatū for women’s rights 125 years after vote victory

Suffrage 125 symbol contains a white camellia worn by suffragists, and the colour violet which represents dignity and respect

‘Whakatū Wāhine’ to celebrate 125 years of women’s voting rights – that’s what the Ministry for Women wants New Zealanders to do.


Suffrage 125 project manager Kim Young says the phrase – meaning Women Stand Up – represents not just women, but all people, standing up for women’s rights.

“This is a celebration not just for women, but for all New Zealanders, because when there’s more equality and women are being recognised, everyone benefits,” says Ms Young.

The Suffrage 125 events will start on March 7, to coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8.

The celebrations will continue until November 28, marking the 125th anniversary of the first national election in which New Zealand women could vote.

During that time, significant dates will be marked by events held by the Ministry for Women.

For example, on July 28 an event will be held at He Tohu, the National Library exhibition which holds the suffrage petition, to mark the day the petition was presented to Parliament.

The petition, which held about 32,000 signatures, was so long it had to be rolled around a broom handle, and was then ceremonially unrolled down Parliament’s carpet.

“As you imagine, that would have been quite a dramatic event,” says Ms Young.

The He Tohu event will be a discussion about activism, and how everyday people can affect change.

Another date of major significance is September 19, the day the suffrage bill was passed into law.

To celebrate, Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter will host an event at Parliament for Parliamentarians and invited guests.

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Along with the major events, the ministry has created a page on its website where people can upload events which celebrate women.

Events currently include art exhibitions, performances by the Royal New Zealand Ballet, and a Q and A with Helen Clark.

“They are going to be shaped around the idea of adding to our history, adding to our historical narrative, and thinking about who are the diverse women who have contributed to improving rights for women and girls in New Zealand,” says Ms Young.

Suffrage 125 also hopes to highlight some of the inequalities in New Zealand.

Ms Genter is focused on improving gender equality in New Zealand, says Ms Young.

Suffrage 125’s aim is not just to celebrate past achievements, but to look forward and prepare for the future.




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