Five talented Kiwi women have their say for International Women's Day

Lucy Lawless, actor and campaigner. Photo / Doug Sherring
Lucy Lawless, actor and campaigner. Photo / Doug Sherring

Lucy Lawless

Actor, campaigner

Who is your favourite heroine and why?
Wairaka. Being from Mt Albert, I would walk home from school over the mountain, Owairaka. Wairaka was a real-life warrior princess who arrived in the Bay of Plenty at the time of The Great Migration from Hawaiki. She saved the women of her tribe by seizing the paddles of the adrift canoe which was tapu to women and steered them back to shore. The town of Whakatane, which means "act as a man" is named after her. She later settled in Tamaki Makaurau and, as a kid, I felt inspired by her. She was valiant and free-thinking.

What was the greatest victory of the women's rights movement?
Universal suffrage.

What issue most needs to be worked on?
Access to birth control and education about natural family planning in countries where birth control is not practicable for reasons sociological, religious, and poverty-related.

What is one instance where you've encountered sexism in your own life?
I have five brothers and my mother said I didn't know I was a girl until age 8. I don't complain much about sexism. Probably it worked in reverse for me. My Kiwi bloke-ishness went against me in Hollywood. Not feminine enough.

What do you think the world would be like if all the top positions were held by women?
Unbalanced. No need to be greedy. Fifty per cent will do nicely. And it's gonna be great.

Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda Ardern, Labour deputy leader. Photo / Guy Coombes
Jacinda Ardern, Labour deputy leader. Photo / Guy Coombes

Labour deputy leader

Who is your favourite heroine and why?
The women in my family generally. My great-great grandmother was a competitive walker (or "long distance pedestrian" as it was known in those days!) Another migrated here on her own from Scotland with nothing but a pistol and a violin. My nana had three children and then found herself with not one but two sets of twins. And then, of course, there is my own mother who taught me so much, but most of all the importance of kindness. They are all my heroines.

What was the greatest victory of the women's rights movement?
Giving women a voice through the right to vote, followed by the right to stand for Parliament in 1919. But it's what we can do with that voice that matters most.

What issue most needs to be worked on?
Picking one is impossible. But the gender pay gap is a simple issue of fairness. I can't ignore though the horrific impact of violence against women. It affects everything.

What is one instance where you've encountered sexism in your life?
One of the first times in a job was probably when I worked as a cookware demonstrator at Farmers in Hamilton. It was bad. I guess it showed me that it exists at lots of levels, not just politics.

What do you think the world would be like if all the top positions were held by women?
I think having even half of the top positions held by women would make a difference (do I even need to mention the United States?)

Dame Valerie Adams

Dame Valerie Adams, Champion shotputter. Photo / Nick Reed
Dame Valerie Adams, Champion shotputter. Photo / Nick Reed

Champion shot putter

Who is your favourite heroine and why?
My Mum, of course. She was one of the strongest women I know and is always an inspiration for me.

What was the greatest victory of the women's rights movement?
Freedom to vote. Isn't it great that NZ was the first country in the world to grant women this freedom?

What is the issue that most needs to be worked on?
Continued equality in all areas of life.

What is one instance in which you've encountered sexism in your own life?
There have been more than a few over the years. I've learnt along the way how to deal with it.

What do you think the world would be like if all the top positions were held by women?
Bloody fantastic! Things would get done!

Jaquie Brown

Jaquie Brown, New Zealand TV presenter, actress and radio presenter. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Jaquie Brown, New Zealand TV presenter, actress and radio presenter. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Entertainer and broadcaster

Who is your favourite heroine and why?
Right now It's Lena Dunham. For putting her body out there, which has helped other women, myself included, feel more comfortable with my own beautifully-imperfect-but-actually-perfect-for-me-and-who-cares-really-anyway-I'm-alive-I-can-move-I'm-grateful form. I love the themes she addresses in Girls. She's brave, fearless and inspiring to me as a writer.

But also my own mum for instilling in me the belief that I could do whatever I wanted in life because, she'd say "you are so capable". Her belief in me, helped me have a belief in myself and it's something I intend to carry on with my own daughter.


What was the greatest victory of the women's rights movement?
Earning the right to vote of course but also critically, the invention of the Pill in the '60s. To give women the choice and power over their fertility and the ability to keep working and earning and not have to stop work and never work again once they have a baby.
Something I think we probably take for granted today.

What issue most needs to be worked on?
It's unacceptable that some women and girls in New Zealand can't afford tampons or pads and are forced to resort to homemade, unhygienic and uncomfortable methods.
Yes, removing tax from these products would be great, so would not turning a natural monthly occurrence into commerce and if you'll excuse the pun, bleeding me dry when I'm bleeding.

Pads and tampons are not only costly, they are bad for the environment. I don't want to read about a sanitary pad getting lodged in an innocent dolphin's blowhole. There is another option for New Zealand women. I dismissed menstrual cups as something only hippies do, but turns out I am a hippie, and we all should be. Cups are great, they come in different colours and sizes but best of all you pay once and get a reusable cup that lasts for years, takes nothing from your body, nothing from the environment and saves you ripping pages from the phone book and shoving them down your pants.


What is one instance of sexism you've encountered in your own life?
Can't answer this one.

What do you think the world would be like if all the top positions were held by women?
There are lots of different types of women, as there are men. ​Just because you are female doesn't mean you are better or worse than a man, whatever that means. I believe in equality and it goes both ways. But you can't deny women's innate ability to nurture and think ahead and around problems, to think globally, to be connectors and not be afraid to allow heart and emotion play a part in some decisions. So yeah, it would be better, of course, and I'd feel safer.

Louise Nicholas

Louise Nicholas, rape survivor and women's rights advocate. Photo / Greg Bowker
Louise Nicholas, rape survivor and women's rights advocate. Photo / Greg Bowker

Rape survivor and women's rights advocate

Who is your favourite heroine and why?
My favourite heroine is Louise Crawford, the little 13-year-old who thought that taking her own life would take away the shame she carried when she "allowed" bad things to happen to her but lived to ensure that it was worthwhile living as her experiences have helped other survivors of sexual violence know they are not to blame for what has happened and no longer need to carry that shame.

What was the greatest victory of the women's rights movement?
The right for women to vote. That alone empowered women to stand up from there on in to ensure that women were heard loud and clear when it came to women's issues, such as in 1986 (I'm sure it was that year) when it became a crime for husbands to rape their wives - huge step forward for the safety of women.

What issue most needs to be worked on?
Equality, especially the gender pay gap that just shouldn't exist in this day and age. Women are just as competent and efficient as men in the working world and should be paid equally for the same work that men do.

What is one instance you've encountered sexism in your own life?
Interestingly nothing in my adult life but as a child I recall several instances at school where I wanted to play rugby but was always told by the boys that girls can't play rugby and when I and other girls complained to a male teacher who was also the coach he, too, told us girls aren't allowed to play rugby as they will get hurt because you don't know how to play the game. It frustrated us but then there was nothing we could do.

What do you think the world would be like if all the top positions were held by women?
I don't believe that if top positions were held by women that the world would be a better place. I believe that positions of power need to be held by people who are right for the job regardless of gender. Women and men need to work alongside each other and bounce off each others' capabilities as we all have something to offer. Women are not the weaker species: We are just as capable as men and it's time all doubters understood and accepted this.

- NZ Herald

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