Government marks 125 years since women gained the right to vote

Wednesday marks 125 years since New Zealand became the first county to grant women the right to vote.

Events in Wellington reflected on how far we've come, while also highlighting how much work still needs to be done to achieve equality.

In 1893, the Suffrage Movement made the journey to Parliament, handing over a petition signed by more than more than 30,000 women and just 21 men that would change history.

Many reflected on the incredible efforts of those in the movement including Kate Sheppard and Meri Te Tai Mangakaahia.

One of the attendees in Wellington said it was empowering for young girls to know what something like this has happened in our country.

Talks quickly turned to the huge amount of work that still needs to be done for equality.

Minister of Conservation Eugiene Sage says suffragettes knew that getting the vote was only the beginning.

"Being fairly valued and fairly paid for one's work was the next issue on the agenda."

The Government on Wednesday put forward the Equal Pay Amendment Bill, making it easier for women to make a pay equity claim.

It was like that achieved by Kristine Bartlett, who won a landmark pay settlement which saw 55,000 low-paid, mainly female care and support workers earn a pay rise

"A lot more women now are standing up for their rights, so I don't think it will take another 125 years - I'm going to give them a lot quicker than that," says Ms Bartlett.

It wasn't until 1919 that women could stand in elections; since then, we've had three female Prime Ministers and 38 percent of our MPs are women.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Parliament that this number should be reaching 50 percent.

"I hope one day it will, and then we will finally be in a place we have respected the suffragette movement."

Others focused on the barriers still faced by women in politics.

National MP Amy Adams says she remembers when she was considering standing for politics and was told she would be better off as a woman.

Minister for Social Development and Disability Issues Carmel Sepuloni pointed out diversity issues.

"Maori and Pacific women are paid much less and are far less likely to be at the decision-making table."

Global Women CEO Miranda Burdon challenges New Zealand to lift our game in the work place with just one in five heads of business being female. 

"The gender pay gap in this country is 9.2 percent. That has reduced over time, but it's still a significant disparity - and strangely, it gets worse at the upper tiers."

While we still have a long way to go, the path to Parliament for the next generation is much smoother thanks to those women who have gone before.


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