Waiho i te toipoto
Kaua i te toiroa
Me mahi tahi tatou
Mo te oranga o te katoa
Let us be close together
Not far apart
We can work together
For the wellbeing of everyone
This mihi reflects the kaupapa of Turning the Tide for Girls – a commitment to give time, expertise and guidance to young women and help them reach their potential.
It’s a particularly appropriate mihi for today, which happens to be International Women’s Day – when we celebrate the progress made in women’s rights around the world, think about what still needs to be achieved, and work to help make it happen.
And it’s a good message for the 125th anniversary year of women achieving the right to vote in New Zealand.
We remember the women who struggled to get that right, and worked together to achieve their goal.
Today, there have been events all around the country to celebrate progress in the status and wellbeing of women.
I started celebrating yesterday, by hosting a women’s suffrage event at Government House in Wellington; this morning I joined other women at a breakfast at Parliament; and now, at the end of International Women’s Day, the focus is on the future of young women in South Auckland.
New Zealanders can be proud of what we have achieved for women. Our suffragettes were pioneers for women in the rest of the world. Because of them, because of their determination and effort, New Zealand became the first country where women were able to vote in elections.
Those courageous women went against the tide and steered their own course. They demonstrated what was possible, and enabled generations that followed them.
They would be so delighted to know that 125 years after they voted for the first time, we have increasing representation of women in Parliament, and that we have female Prime Minister.
They would be astonished to see what has been achieved by women in education and employment, to see female engineers, police officers, pilots and ships’ captains.
We have made great progress, there is much to celebrate, but there are still barriers to achieving real equity.
It is in all our interests to have a New Zealand where everyone has opportunities to achieve their potential – no matter where they come from, what religious faith they have, or whether they are female or male.
So often we are asked to put our hands in our wallets to support good causes; in this instance, Turning the Tide asks supporters to take a more hands-on approach.
There is much to be said for volunteers playing to their strengths and sharing their expertise directly.
Turning the Tide for Girls is about exploring new directions and taking control.
It’s challenging to go against the current, but it’s also exciting, and full of possibilities – as expressed in this whakatauki:
E tū ki te kei o te waka, kia pākia koe e ngā ngaru o te wā
Stand at the stern of the canoe and feel the spray of the future biting at your face.
I wish you all the very best, volunteers and young women here tonight, as you steer the course ahead.