. The Advocate asked women working in family and women's health and welfare to review the situation 125 years after the first nationwide win for feminism. Manaia Health PHO health promotion manager Ngaire Rae and Dr Kerryann Clark put together some collective views.

First - there has been some good progress, yet statistics highlight how far we still have to go.

Women are under-represented in many areas and there is still so much to do. The need for feminism is as much now as it was back then. Suffragettes fought for equality – they could see the decisions being made weren't in the interests of all and by having a vote they could influence change. That is still the case for women today.

But is feminism alone what we need? The concept needs to include anti racism work, social justice, community development, political change.

Advertisement

Intersectional feminism acknowledges that privilege and the converse, discrimination, is layered. The layers of sexism, racism, able bodyism, heterosexism, poverty, lack of education, gender identity all contribute to huge inequities, disadvantage and discrimination.

As an able bodied, healthy, employed, educated, heterosexual Pākehā woman, I have so much privilege in Aotearoa/New Zealand. I have never experienced racism, I've never had to hide or defend my sexuality, I don't have to worry about money, my house is warm and dry, I can buy whatever food I choose, I can access / actively participate in any part of my community and don't face barriers because of a disability.

Sure I've experienced sexism, but it's relative to my position of power and privilege.

The issues we are facing today - huge inequities in Māori health outcomes, high poverty rates for tamariki Māori, inequities in educational outcomes, high suicide rates, high incarceration, rape and violence towards women and children, etc - are largely because of the history of colonisation and ongoing systemic institutional, cultural, personally -mediated racism.

It's also because of the economic inequities caused by our neo-liberal capitalist society that puts profit ahead of people and corporate and individual rights ahead of the wellbeing of people and common good. It's also because of the power held by men, Pākehā men (and also Pākehā women) and their determination to hold on to it. These are feminist issues.

From my work with Tryphina House Women's Refuge, I am so aware of how much work there is to do about attitudes towards women, children and violence in this country.

I haven't seen any change in this over the past 10 years, and think it's getting worse, particularly when it comes to welfare, housing and parenting practices.

More than just tolerating poverty, racism, discrimination against people with disabilities, we often blame the victim, and they are often mothers and children.

When women wanted to work, the capitalist system just said great, we can have two labour units for the price of one, which has pretty much happened over the past 40 years, ie, two incomes now for a mortgage.

If a universal basic income is introduced so everyone has the security to pursue self-actualisation, women could more easily leave abusive men.

So many people still have so little and we carry on as a society that this is okay. Policy solutions, even from our first Labour-led government in years, are still just tinkering at solutions.

An area that remains of great concern is the struggle experienced by women when in the justice system, which is still very much run by men for men.

I am thinking, for example, of women who experience sexual violence, mothers in prison and how hard these women need to fight to seek recognition of their rights.

I am also thinking about how many women struggle in Aotearoa to raise their children alone, no matter how hard they work, and how our welfare, justice and tax system do not recognise the vital role they are playing.

My simplistic view is along the lines of Marilyn Waring and other feminist writers like Nancy Folbre, that caring is not counted as ''work'' unless commercialised. Women do most of that, formally or informally. Until the cost of care for children, the elderly and infirm is addressed realistically little progress for women's lives and their whānau will be made.

Of course, progress depends — as did suffrage — on women revolting and good men with power acknowledging that reality.

We do need to do lots more work on gender equality at governance level with only 38 per cent of our MPs being women and the sad statistic of having one of the lowest number of women CEOs in the world, at only 20 per cent.

What gives me hope is knowing that as women we have incredible strength and beauty and the power to change the world with the overwhelming force of our ability to love.

To end, from Kerryann Clark: I do see great hope for our future. I see bright, clever, staunch clever young wāhine who are questioning and challenging society.

I see mothers pushing back and wanting a better future for their children.

Our recent consultation of 65 children in Whangārei said that they wanted more empathetic, kind, safe and respectful communities that value them and their environment.

Let's listen to our children who say what they want is "a place where there is no poverty, where everyone lives equal".