This week marks a special milestone in New Zealand history – 125 years since women were granted the right to vote. While it may seem ludicrous now that there was ever a time that women needed to fight so hard and for so long to be granted a fundamental right that men had enjoyed for years longer, it does indicate that our country lays claim to some measures that mark it out as one of the more progressive nations on Earth.

Unfortunately human beings can be incredibly divisive, and while we can celebrate the success of the suffrage movement in the last century and what they achieved for generations of Kiwi women, it’s worth knowing that we still have a ways to go. The Pay Equity Bill currently being debated in parliament is one great example of how illogical it is that we are still arguing about the right to equal pay based on gender.

“While Kate Sheppard is now a household name – whose face graces our ten dollar note – she is but one of many thousands of New Zealand women who campaigned for two decades to be granted the right to vote.”

New Zealand was the first country to grant women the right to vote in 1893 and the heroes of the suffrage movement have a rightful place as pioneers in New Zealand history. While Kate Sheppard is now a household name – whose face graces our ten dollar note – she is but one of many thousands of New Zealand women who campaigned for two decades to be granted the right to vote.

“The past 125 years have not been easy, despite the right to vote and like every movement for equality; subsequent battles have been hard fought – even today with the fight for equal pay.”

Other women, such as Mary Ann Muller and Anne Ward and legions involved with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, patiently advocated for change through public meetings, petitions and letter writing campaigns. Bills presented in parliament failed with close margins until the pressure of premier, Richard Seddon on other members of the house succeeded. It’s worth remembering that lobbyists of the liquor industry were some of the more vociferous opponents to suffrage – afraid that the power to vote would influence temperance measures.

The past 125 years have not been easy, despite the right to vote and like every movement for equality; subsequent battles have been hard fought – even today with the fight for equal pay.

“Although we are currently living in a ‘post truth’ world where such ridiculous things as alternative truth and alternative facts are publicly spoken, honesty, fairness and equality are basic tenets of human life that are vital for our self-respect and integrity.”

Kiwis tend to think of themselves as fair-minded people and many of the measures passed in our history affirm that – to a point – but we should not be debating about such things as equal pay in this day and age. Gender inequality should be an anachronism. Although we are currently living in a ‘post truth’ world where such ridiculous things as alternative truth and alternative facts are publicly spoken, honesty, fairness and equality are basic tenets of human life that are vital for our self-respect and integrity.

We can’t rest on the laurels of historical victories and whatever our gender, equality, race, or ethnicity we are all human beings who deserve the same rights and privileges as each other. I applaud the tireless work and sacrifices of our mothers, sisters and daughters who have lived with gender inequality and fought so very hard to overcome it – and I look forward to the day when we no longer have to even discuss inequality of any kind.