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  • 40 MPs from all parties gather in the Parliamentary Library at the Beehive in Wellington, including Prime MInister Jacinda Ardern and her baby Neve.

    40 MPs from all parties gather in the Parliamentary Library at the Beehive in Wellington, including Prime MInister Jacinda Ardern and her baby Neve. | Photo: Jack O'Donnell

Published 19 September 2018
Opinion

Amidst celebrations, talks turned towards the work yet to be accomplished for complete equality.

On Wednesday, over 400 people gathered in Auckland’s Aotea Square to celebrate the 125th anniversary since women were granted the right to vote in New Zealand.

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New Zealand was the first country in the world to grant women voting rights. The Electoral Act of Sept. 19, 1893, gave women above the age of 21 the right to vote in parliamentary elections.

The act was made possible after suffragettes handed over a petition signed by more than 30,000 women and 21 men. Though women were granted the right to vote they couldn't become candidates for elections until 1919. Since then the country has had three female prime ministers and 38 percent of MPs are female.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern credited the women who made this advancement possible saying: "They're all part of a journey to equality that we are continuing to this day." 

She added: "The issues they fought for — economic independence, freedom from violence, equal pay — they're all issues we continue to grapple with."

Kate Sheppard and Meri Te Tai Mangakaahia, two of the renowned suffragettes were remembered during the celebrations.

Acting Minister for Women Eugenie Sage says suffragettes knew that getting the vote was only the beginning. She said: "Being fairly valued and fairly paid for one's work was the next issue on the agenda."

The country still grapples with a 9% gender pay gap. As a result, the government introduced the Equal Pay Amendment Bill on Wednesday, which will pave the way for removing the pay gap.

The issue of Maori and Pacific women was also brought up. They constitute a large part of the country but are poorly paid and rarely seen in decision-making bodies. "They work in admin, they're key people who keep the show on the road, and they're getting really pathetic wages,” said Gabriel Brettkelly, the Public Service Association’s pay equity campaign organization.  

Other issues which were highlighted include the plight of mothers retaining well-paying jobs during and after pregnancy and the challenges faced by differently-abled women.

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