oday marks 121 years since women were granted the right to vote in New Zealand – the first country to attain universal suffrage. To mark the day, the union hosted a women’s breakfast, and invited Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel to talk to us. It was pretty informal – although she started off with a prepared speech about the importance of democracy for Christchurch, she quickly abandoned her notes and started to drift off topic, so ended up talking about everything from the Scottish referendum to how the media have subverted the word “feminist”. She made an interesting point about Scotland, actually – that the outcome of today’s vote is arguably less important than the fact that the fact it is happening at all, and that it has got their entire country actively discussing the issues and taking part in democracy (as of the last news report I saw, they had a 90% turnout – an incredible number (compare that with NZ, where in 2011 there were more people who didn’t vote at all than voted for the current government)).
And it did kind of tie into her original point, which was that our great-grandmothers fought hard to win the right to vote, and that using that right and participating in democracy is vitally important, no matter who we decide to vote for. Democracy is all too easily taken away from us (as we’ve seen very clearly in Christchurch over the past few years), and it’s only by exercising our right to vote that we can ensure we keep it. (Plus, I’ve always reckoned if you don’t vote, then you’ve got no right to complain if you don’t like the government!)
So, those few of you reading this who are New Zealanders, get out and vote tomorrow (or today, even – early voting is open at many of the polling stations). If you can’t easily get to a polling station, contact one of the political parties and ask for their help – they’ve all got programmes in place to help transport voters to the polls. I don’t care who you vote for, as long as you vote. It doesn’t matter if you think all the politicians are corrupt and as bad as each other – just vote for the whoever you reckon is the least awful. Vote for a joke party like The Civilian if you need to, but cast a vote, participate in democracy, and honour the women who 121 years ago fought so hard to make sure we all have that right.