On 19 September 1893, New Zealand passed the Electoral Reform Act 1893. As a result, 125 years ago today, New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world in which all women had the right to vote in parliamentary elections.
Astonishing women led the way. Kate Sheppard was the leader of the suffrage movement that delivered a 30,000 person petition to parliament leading to the change. Her picture is featured on the New Zealand ten dollar note, and she is widely recognised as a significant change-maker.
Elizabeth McCombs was the first woman to be elected as a member of parliament in 1933; the first woman Prime Minister, Jenny Shipley took office in 1997; and New Zealand's current Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern is trailblazing for a future generation of women, taking office last year at the age of 37, the youngest head of government in New Zealand since 1853. She gave birth to her daughter this year, taking maternity leave from her role as Prime Minister for 6 weeks from June to August.
The picture below was taken in Wellington, New Zealand at the Women's March held in January 2017 protesting the inauguration of US president Donald Trump. It is a reminder that while much has been achieved since the days of Kate Sheppard, some of the issues raised remain unresolved.
In New Zealand we have horribly high levels of domestic violence, low levels of women represented on boards and executive teams, and a disappointingly strong showing in the recent #metoo investigations.
And so we continue. We try to do better. We each step up and make a difference in our own way. Large or small.
Within the ordinary sits the extraordinary. Each of the women, who just got on with it, has a story that can inspire us, to just get on with it too. - Jacinda Ardern
And we vote. Kate Sheppard had a reminder for us on that too.