The year 2018 marks the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand. On September 19, 1893, the Electoral Act 1893 was passed, giving all women in New Zealand the right to vote. As a result of this landmark legislation, New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world in which all women had the right to vote in parliamentary elections. In retrospect, the fact that in most other democracies, including Britain and the United States, women did not win the right to vote until after the First World War – is a source of immense pride. In fact, New Zealand’s world leadership in women’s suffrage has become a central part of our image as a trail-blazing social laboratory. However, the achievement of suffrage rights for women had not happened overnight. The achievement was the result of years of effort by suffrage campaigners, led by Kate Sheppard.
It is important to understand that the suffrage movement was shaped by two main themes: equal political rights for women and a determination to use them for the wider moral reform of the Kiwi society. There is an absolute unanimity that the women’s suffrage had been both – an agent and the product – of the positive social change for women.
Ever since Kiwi women won the right to vote, and subsequently stand for the New Zealand parliament elections, the country has taken tremendous strides in the progression of the overall civic engagement and participation in the national life. Such are the strides taken by our nation that in 2018 when we celebrate the 125th anniversary of women suffrage, we have a woman Prime Minister who has successfully delivered a baby while being in the office. Indeed this year NZ has demolished another barrier and perceived limitation attributed to women’s ability to perform and lead the most important offices of the country.
This year the entire nation is coming together to celebrate the historic occasion through a number of commemorative events, publications and activities. Branding, social media and web platforms are being developed to facilitate connections and establish a national programme of events to celebrate this significant anniversary.
It would be perfectly befitting to put a special focus on celebrating the spirit, the courage, and the essence of our Kiwi-Indian women in this issue. For being a Kiwi-Indian woman – a woman in an ethnic minority migrant community, which is trying to find its feet in a new country – the challenges and the limitations imposed, are enormous.
The stories of the women in our communities are always extraordinary as it reflects the incredible journey that our women have to take in their everyday endeavours to be successful in whatever they do, either for a living or just for being responsible members of the society. However, in this issue, we are choosing to celebrate a few game-changing individuals who are doing extraordinary things to create positive social change for women and New Zealand. The intention is to present their incredible stories of endurance, their trysts with equality issues, and their eventual success in overcoming those challenges around equality issues, which continues to restrict access to opportunities, despite our collective efforts – and inspire others.
The list of Kiwi-Indian women portrayed in this special issue, neither claims to be exhaustive nor selective in any manner conveying any particular preference, rather there is a complete acknowledgement that the list is just a tip of the iceberg when it comes to celebrating the Kiwi-Indian women. The intention is to inspire many others who are going through their own respective journeys of pursuit of success. (Please read on page 16 & 17).