On September 19, 2018, New Zealand celebrated the 125th anniversary of women suffrage. The Electoral Act was signed into law in 1893 and thereby, gave women over the age of 21 the right to vote in parliamentary elections. Therefore, making New Zealand the first country in the world to enact such ground-breaking and progressive legislation.
According to Stuff NZ, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the anniversary as a “joyous moment of reflection” for everyone in New Zealand. Ardern continued, “I believe within the ordinary stands the extraordinary and it’s thanks to these women that I am here today. I choose to honour them by putting all the things left to achieve gender equality at the top of my list.” Auckland Mayor Phil Goff stated, “today we are honouring the past but we also look forward to finishing the journey to gender equality.” Goff also noted that despite progress in politics, the glass ceiling to the business world still needs to be broken with the underrepresentation of women in some of the country’s top jobs and a gender pay gap of over nine percent.
It is marvelous to see New Zealand celebrating this remarkable moment in its history with both honour for the past and hope for the future. As well as, New Zealand becoming the first country to legislate women’s right to vote, and their three top constitutional positions are currently held by women. New Zealand both celebrating its successes and acknowledging that further work is needed shows that the country is a prime representative to the rest of the world in campaigning for women’s rights and gender equality.
Celebrations and awareness must continue worldwide to ensure that gender equality continues to become more of a reality for all women. According to UN Women, there is established, and growing evidence that women’s involvement in leadership and political decision-making processes lead to an improvement in decision-making outcomes. However, as of June 2016, only 22.8 percent of all national parliamentarians are women. Therefore, further awareness and promotion of women in politics and leadership need to be promoted by governments and businesses worldwide.
New Zealand started a chain reaction in 1893 with many countries following its lead in giving women the right to vote. Vatican City is now the only place in the world not granting women this right. Saudi Arabia was the last country to give women the right to vote in 2015.
The suffragettes of the past have laid down a strong foundation, it is hoped that New Zealand and the rest for the world will not let them down by continuing to build up from these foundations in establishing the normalization of women in political and leadership roles and in achieving true gender equality.