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Honour right to vote

EMILY NORMAN

If anyone knows the importance of voting, it would be Sharynne Fordyce and Lynette Stutz.

Each is a member of the Wairarapa branch of the National Council of Women New Zealand, and believe that casting a vote in the upcoming General Election is the best way to honour the sacrifices made by Kiwi women who were the first in the world to gain the right to vote.

In 1893, almost 125 years ago, New Zealand became the first nation in the world to grant women the right to vote.

Suffrage Day, which the pair celebrated on Tuesday by handing out information leaflets and white camellias in Masterton, is a significant day in New Zealand’s history.

The day provides an opportunity for individuals and organisations to celebrate New Zealand’s suffrage achievements and look for ways to make further progress to benefit women.

Sharynne said the timing of Suffrage Day was perfect to drum up voting participation for the weekend.

“I try to drill into my children, particularly my daughters that voting is a right that was fought for.

“People really sacrificed a lot to win that right, and there are still people fighting.”

She said voting was an expression of opinion, and with just over 50 per cent of New Zealand’s population made up of women, that presence needed to be felt in the voting turnout.

“We need to stand up and be counted.

“You need to make your presence felt.

“If you are unhappy about something, you need to vote.”

Her advice was to go online, look up each party, and the Wairarapa candidates standing, and become informed.

Lynette, who has been a member of the Wairarapa branch of the National Council of Women since the early 1990s recalled a poster which was displayed in Wellington prior to women gaining the right to vote.

It is a stark contrast to the attitudes towards women today.

The poster had read: “A notice to electioneering women. They are recommended to go home to look after their children, cook their husbands dinners, empty the slops, and generally attend to the domestic affairs for which nature designed them.

“By taking this advice, they will gain the respect of all right-minded people an end not to be attained by unsexing themselves and meddling in masculine concerns of which they are profoundly ignorant.”

Lynette said it was lucky that women back then had stood up for what they believed in, and sacrificed so much to win the vote.

“Nowadays, there are too many women and men who don’t vote,” she said.

“If you are concerned that you don’t know who to vote for, vote anyway.

“Have a look at all the parties and the candidates. Nobody goes into parliament, in my opinion, to mess up your own country – why would you do that?

“All of these people are going into parliament for the right reasons. You just need to look at the philosophy and see which one best matches your world view.

“If you don’t vote, you are contributing to the breakdown of democracy as we know it.”

Daniel Bertram is voting for the first time. PHOTO/EMILY NORMAN
Daniel Bertram is voting for the first time. PHOTO/EMILY NORMANSharynne 

Also voting in this year’s general election will be 18-year-old Daniel Bertram, a Wairarapa Youth Council member.

He said the main problems youth were facing in Wairarapa were unemployment, and “suicide rates being too high”.

“I’ve been unimpressed by some policies and I still have a bit of research to do,” he said.

“I think I’ll be doing an early vote on Friday because I’m busy on Saturday.

In the meantime, he said he would be on the lookout for sensible policies that were easily understood and clear-cut.

“I want to know what the party is going to do, how they’re going to do it, and when they’re going to do it by,” he said.

“I’ll be looking for promises they can actually put into action.”

Daniel encouraged everyone eligible to vote in this election, as contribution was key to a true democracy.

“If everyone that didn’t vote voted, you’d have a completely different government.”

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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