Melissa Harward: A Reflection on Suffrage Day

The Ministry for Women invited AYLI to nominate some of our alumni to attend Suffrage 125 celebrations at Parliament. We extended this invitation to our alumni who are leading change for women and girls in their communities. Here’s how Melissa found the experience.

I was very privileged to visit Parliament on Suffrage Day. It felt awesome to be in a crowd of women and I knew they were all involved in amazing work! There were probably a couple of hundred people there from MPs like Louisa Wall, Jan Logie and Tracey Martin through to students, like us.

The Acting Minister for Women, Eugenie Sage, spoke, as did the Prime Minister herself. Both spoke of the power of coming together. For me though, the highlight was hearing Mona-Pauline Mangakahia speak about her great grandmother Meri Te Tai Mangakahia.

Meri Te Tai was a mana wahine for her family and for all women. She was born in 1868 near Whakarapa (in Northland). She was the first wahine to speak at the Kotahitanga Parliament. Meri’s husband Hamiora was the first president of the Kotahitanga Parliament. It was here that Meri requested women be given the right to vote. She explained that as the Queen herself was a woman, surely all women could be given voting rights.

Mona-Pauline continues her great grandmother’s mahi and has been telling Meri’s story throughout New Zealand for Suffrage Day.

The other awesome speaker we heard from was Emma Foy who studies law and is a paralympian cyclist! Emma said that the suffrage movement “cemented the value of equality in our nation’s consciousness.” She said that equality meant being more than what is expected of you in society. Emma surely has exceeded expectations of anyone. She said it is important to have the courage to determine who we are at all risks. This is an awesome perspective on the world. Not only is Emma owning who she is and excelling, she pushes for others to have the right to be themselves too.

A huge thanks to AYLI for the opportunity to attend this event!

All posts by Institute delegates reflect their own thoughts, opinions and experiences.

Posted on September 27, 2018 and filed under Institute Updates.