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  • Fri, 8, Mar, 2019 - 5:00:AM

What are New Zealanders celebrating this International Women's Day, and what needs to change?

Images: Jacinda Ardern / Mihingarangi Forbes / Hilary Barry / Golriz Gharaman

Happy International Women’s Day! 

…Or is it? Happy, I mean.

International Women’s Day is often seen as something to celebrate, but as countless infuriatingly difficult to budge statistics confirm, we still have a long way to go until women achieve equality. So this International Women’s Day, instead of going down the purely celebratory route, we thought we’d ask New Zealanders both what they’re celebrating today, and what needs to change.

Here’s what they said:

Rt Hon. Jacinda Ardern (Prime Minister)

What I’m celebrating/what needs to change: I’m one of those ‘angsty’ types that doesn’t celebrate too much when I feel like there is much yet to be done. Yes we’ve extended paid parental leave, we’re reforming our pay equity laws, we’ve invested in domestic violence services – but so long as women are over represented in low paid work, or experience intimate partner violence, or so long as any girl or young woman sees her gender as a barrier to achieving her goals, I will continue to be an ‘angsty’ type.

Rt Hon. Helen Clark (former Prime Minister, former UNDP Administrator)

What I’m celebrating:That New Zealand has its third woman Governor-General, third woman Prime Minister, second woman chief justice, and a Parliament in which more than forty per cent of the Members are women.

What needs to change: We need to move to gender parity in Parliament, close the remaining gender pay gap, and take urgent action to work towards the elimination of violence against women.

Mihingarangi Forbes (journalist)

What I’m celebrating: I’m celebrating the women who advocate for the voiceless. Paora Crawford Moyle, Dame Tariana Turia, Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, Sue Bradford, Laila Harre, Khylee Quince, Leonie Pihama, Laura Rapira O’Connell, and many, many more.

What needs to change: Our violent culture towards wāhine.

Madeleine Sami (actor, comedian, musician)

What I’m celebrating: All the wonderful supportive women in my life! 

What needs to change: I would love for the abuse of women at the hands of men to stop!

Hilary Barry (journalist)

What I’m celebrating: I’m celebrating living in a country that has been at the forefront of gender balance since it gave women the vote back in 1893. While we still have a way to go, we should be proud of what we've achieved so far.

What needs to change: We still have some way to go to right the gender pay gap and the gender opportunity gap. I think we also need to make it easier for women to return to work if they want to after having children through flexible working hours and more accessible and affordable early childhood education.

Judith Collins (politician)

What I’m celebrating: I’m in Hokitika for the Wild Foods Festival where I’m supporting my colleague, Maureen Pugh MP, who is a strong woman with a wonderful core of West Coast humour.

What needs to change: How about just treating all women like humans, expecting the best and treating everyone as the best.

Paula Penfold (journalist)

What I’m celebrating: That there is a growing, palpable, swelling, insistent intolerance for inequality for women, across all spheres.

What needs to change: That inequality still exists across all spheres. From our horrendous stats for violence against women, to the snail’s-pace time it’s taking to fix the gender pay gap, to the inequitable way women are represented and treated in business, in politics, in sport, in law. Change is happening, but there’s so much still to do.

Jennifer Ward-Lealand (actor)

What I’m celebrating: I’m celebrating the seismic shift in the power dynamic within our industry.

What needs to change: We need to see and hear more stories from women of all ages, colour, sizes and types on our stages and screen.

Kirsty Johnston (journalist)

What needs to change: Society’s understanding of sexual consent needs urgent attention – that way we will have a social licence to change the law too.

Golriz Gharaman (politician)

What I’m celebrating: I’m celebrating the women all around me, who persist. I know I would not be here, with the privilege of a voice in politics and in public life, without every woman who gets up every morning and pushes back. Every woman who puts herself out there in a male dominated profession, speaks up in a meeting, puts food on the table for her children alone, supports and believes other women when they suffer abuse or violence, is making it a little safer and easier to be a woman out there right now. That spirit is worth celebrating!

What needs to change: I think we need to make feminism inclusive. We need to understand each other better so that we can respectfully support and empower minority women. I know from first-hand experience, that there is far too often an assumption that women of minority cultures or religions need to shed those identities to be ‘feminists’. In fact, there is fierce, authentic feminism in every culture. Just as there is fierce feminism, with different needs and frontlines, in the disability community. Just as trans and intersex women have a lot to teach us all about the struggle for equality. Feminism may look different and be a little more silenced when it comes with minority identities, but to be a truly transformative movement we need to help amplify those voices.

Dame Therese Walsh (business leader)

What I’m celebrating: That the advancement and recognition of women is up in lights and commanding the attention it deserves.

What needs to change: If we really want to create lasting change on gender equality we need to keep going but even harder.  We can’t afford to lose the momentum that has been built.

Alison Mau (journalist)

What I’m celebrating: I’m celebrating the hundreds of women who’ve had the courage to contact me in a whole year of #metooNZ reporting. We haven’t been able to publish all of their stories, for a variety of reasons, and sometimes I feel kind of guilty about that. Then again, some simply wanted to say out loud – for the first time ever – what happened to them. I hope they know they have all made it easier for the next survivor to stand up and speak up.

What needs to change: I won’t beat around the bush here. Our consent laws need to change.

Laura O’Connell Rapira (activist)

What I’m celebrating: I’m celebrating the next generation of young mostly female activists who are organising a strike from school to call on government and business leaders to do more to secure a safe climate future.

What needs to change: The Government needs to fully fund sexual violence support, education and prevention.

Jack Tame (journalist)

What I’m celebrating: On Breakfastwe’re marking IWD by highlighting women’s progress and the ongoing gender inequality in our society. IWD is an opportunity to publicly celebrate women’s achievements – in 2017 we did our 3-hour show with only women guests. Consider the recent progress in women’s sport, and the fact Aotearoa currently has a female Prime Minister, a female Governor General, and a female Chief Justice. We’re not there by any stretch but we are progressing. And yeah after work I’ll probably give my mum a call, too.

What needs to change: The number of people who cry, ‘Ew but why isn’t there an international MEN’s day?’ There is. Google it.

I actually think, pressing as the pay gap may be, domestic violence is the most critical issue facing women in Aotearoa. Our statistics are a national disgrace. It requires systemic change which few of us champion enough.


  • International Women's Day /
  • International Women's Day 2019 /
  • Jacinda Ardern /
  • Helen Clark /
  • Mihingarangi Forbes /
  • Madeleine Sami /
  • Hilary Barry /
  • Judith Collins /
  • Paula Penfold /
  • Jennifer Ward-Lealand /
  • Kirsty Johnston /
  • Golriz Gharaman /
  • Dame Therese Walsh /
  • Alison Mau /
  • Laura O'Connell Rapira /
  • Jack Tame /
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