113 years on, equality battle continues
4.00pm Tuesday September 19, 2006
By Lindy Laird
“It took another 70 years of nagging” before women could sit on juries, be Justices of the Peace or work as police officers, says longtime women’s lobbyist Audrey Trimmer.
Equal pay and parity in employment was one of the more high-profile ongoing battles, along with the campaign to reduce violence in society.
“Everybody is amazed when I tell them that there is still an an ongoing struggle on behalf of women,” Mrs Trimmer says.
“There are so many things we take for granted now that wouldn’t have happened if the National Council for Women hadn’t lobbied hard for and made submissions to parliament.”
Mrs Trimmer fears that, although lobby groups will continue to work on rights and quality of life issues, younger generations had become blase about the events of 1893 which saw New Zealand lead the world in allowing women to vote.
“I think it’s a shame that New Zealand history isn’t taught to the level it should be in schools.”
Christine Low, national president of the group that represents up to 250,000 women belonging to a wide variety of affiliated groups, said it was ironic that women’s groups were still fighting for some of the same issues fought for by the suffragettes.
“We have made some gains but it’s far from over. There’s still an awful lot of work to do not only for women but to benefit all of New Zealand society.
“Freedom from violence, in particular,” Ms Low said. “Calling it domestic violence just pigeonholes it. It’s much broader than that. And pay equity is still but a distant dream for many.”
* Women in Mongolia had the vote (1924) before women in Britain (1928). In Spain women lost the vote in 1936 under the Franco regime and didn’t get it back until 1976. In Australia the end of legislative discrimination against Aboriginal peoples gave native women the vote in 1962. Swiss women were allowed to vote after 1971, and in Bahrain women gained the vote in 2001.
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