One hundred and twenty five years ago today , women in Māori electorates were able to vote for the first time.

Tonight, an event celebrating the achievements of Māori women will be held at Tauranga Art Gallery, honouring the historic suffrage movement of 1893.

Te Mana o te Wahine caps off this year's series of Suffrage 125 events in Tauranga Moana.

Organiser Parewhati Taikato said the seed for the idea came from working with Tauranga heritage specialist Debbie McCauley during Matariki celebrations earlier this year, which included an event involving a panel of business speakers.


"This one we didn't want it to just be classic business. We wanted to recognise Māori achievement across the platforms," Taikato said.

Te Mana o te Wahine will feature speakers including business leader and adviser Traci Houpapa, lawyer and Māori Woman Business Leader winner Miriana Stephens, artist and community worker Tania Lewis-Rickard, and artist and Women's Refuge Collective's Linda Munn.

"It's really an acknowledgement of those successful women, tied up with when we first voted," Taikato said.

In 1893, the Women's Suffrage movement gave New Zealand women the ability to vote. For women in general electorates, voting took place on November 28 while women in Māori electorates voted on December 20.

Taikato said the timing of the event honoured the historic significance of the day all of those years ago but also reflected the achievements of other Māori women already making an impact in their respective fields.

"At the gallery, there is an exhibition featuring weaver Matekino Lawless, QSM, at the moment, and across the road, Shona Tawhiao has her pop-up store ... Stacey Mareroa is hosting a leadership workshop at Tauranga City Council earlier in the day which is focusing for rangatahi (youth) and Ria Hall is performing at Our Place.

"So there's a real nice affinity that we have there in the centre of town.

"Even though they are different things, there is that synchronicity there."


Te Mana o te Wahine will include Q&A sessions with the panel but two creative stations featuring local flax weavers will also feature for anyone wanting a break from the main event.

"People don't have to come in and feel they have to network and schmooze. People can come, sit and relax if they want to and learn to weave wristbands or putiputi flowers."

McCauley said the impact of Māori women getting the vote was huge as many had come from having a say over their land and respected positions of influence to no longer having much of a voice.

"It's really good something is being done on December 20. It tells the full suffrage story, not just one side of it. It's really important," McCauley.

Te Mana o te Wahine

Te Mana o te Wahine, celebrating wahine Māori and their achievements, is open to all. It begins at 5.30pm at Tauranga Art Gallery in Willow St. Free entry but cash bar.