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March 26, 2018 | by  | in News |
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Whakatū Wāhine Panel Discussion

To recognise International Women’s Day on the 8th March, the Ministry for Women, in partnership with Te Papa, hosted the panel discussion Whakatū wāhine — forging our future, heralding our history. The panel discussed the significance of 125 years of suffrage in New Zealand, centring on how New Zealand can build on its history, and  the challenges that women in New Zealand face today.

The panel was held at Te Marae, part of Te Papa Museum. Featured on the panel were Minister for Women Hon Julie Anne Genter MP, Victoria University historian Professor Charlotte Macdonald, National Council of Women of New Zealand President Vanisa Dhiru, Board Chair of Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu (The Correspondence School) and Scholarship Services Aotearoa Mele Wendt, and Georgina Beyer, the first transgender woman in the world to be elected as an MP.

Overall the panelists concurred that Kate Sheppard would be proud with the large strides that women have made in New Zealand over the last 125 years, but she would probably still find the rampant culture of domestic abuse in New Zealand troubling.


Professor Charlotte Macdonald, an expert on gender and New Zealand history speculated that “The danger that women and children were subject to in the home, families were dangerous places because of violence…. I think that’s the most worrying thing she would observe in contemporary New Zealand”.

Georgina Beyer also lamented that gender identity was not protected under the New Zealand Human Rights Act. “This would give [women and gender minorities] a platform on which we can legitimately go for access to all health services, education, housing, you name it.”

Responding to a question on the current MeToo and TimesUp movements, Julie Anne Genter stressed that “what’s happening right now is testament to what happens when women raise their voices”.

Professor Macdonald compared the current moment to women’s liberation in the ‘70s. She underscored that while social progress is not always linear, the current cultural moment for women looks hopeful for lasting change.
“It’s not about individual women airing particular complaints or trying to solve them on their own… it’s about action, the collective speaking.”

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