I am a real believer of strength in diversity. As a younger, ethnic, female Kiwi-Indian, I’ve often been seen as different and diverse – which is a strength or a weakness, depending on the situation and who is judging.
Today’s women in New Zealand are diverse. We are of different ages, sizes, colour, ethnicity, sexual identity, socioeconomic background and education status.
In this year, as we celebrate 125 years of Suffrage, we must ensure the lives of all women and girls are supported.
We must make sure this country supports everyone to have equal pay for work of equal value, for everyone be free from all forms of violence - sexual, domestic, physical or emotional - to be empowered to study whatever they wish, and seek for whatever career they want, and not be judged. Never judged for being a female. Never treated differently for being who you are in our society.
So, I hear you ask – what about men? Well, men and boys equally suffer from inequalities as well. We hold attitudes that suggest men and boys are strong, must be fierce, fighters and protectors. That boy should not play with dolls. Or wear pink. Be the key decision maker. These attitudes drive behaviours which are not helpful. They create a culture where masculinity is superior to femininity. By encouraging this type of thinking, we elevate males to be superior to females. In today’s world that is not acceptable, and especially in this country of Aotearoa New Zealand.
As the President of the National Council of Women New Zealand, the position Kate Sheppard held, we want everyone to be able to do what they want - no matter their gender. And to do that, we all need to manage the intersecting issues of age, race, culture, religion, ability, economic status, education level, sexual identity and gender.
We must consider as we learn at school, go to work, raise our children, be citizens of this country and serve our wider communities in the work we do, to build a sense of belonging and participation for everyone - no matter the gender.
As Aotearoa changes in its demographic, the challenge for communities is how we can respond to this diversity. And that is a key challenge for anyone fighting for equality today.