Four well-known Rotorua women will open their lives up to the community later this month in celebration of the women's suffrage movement.

The 125th anniversary of women's suffrage in New Zealand will be celebrated at a special lunchtime event at Rotorua Library Te Aka Mauri on Saturday, September 15, from 12pm to 2pm.

Members of the public are invited to attend a shared lunch and Living Books session where four well-known women, Tania Te Whenua, Alexis LewGor, Dr Sandra Velarde and Faustinah Ndlovu, will answer questions from the audience.

The event is being co-hosted by the Rotorua Multicultural Council and Rotorua Library with funding from the Geyser Community Foundation.


The four Living Book speakers have diverse backgrounds and will be responding to open forum questions from the audience on topics such as suffrage and changes in their home country or town, their inspiration and the future of women's rights.

Library director Jane Gilbert is looking forward to the occasion.

"As well as coming from different countries, the speakers all have very different areas of specialty which will make for an interesting discussion."

Rotorua Multicultural Council president Dr Margriet Theron will be facilitating the event.

She says it is a great opportunity to reflect on women's rights, build understanding of Māori values among migrants and learn about and from inspiring women.

All are welcome to attend the free event. People are asked to bring a small plate of lunch to share and any questions. Booking is not required.

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Living Book Speakers:

- Tania Te Whenua (Tūhoe, Whakatōhea) is the principal of Te Whenua Law and Consulting. She acts as legal counsel to the NZ Council of Trade Unions and the Public Service Association on inequities facing Māori women in employment in a Waitangi Tribunal inquiry. She was raised in Ōpōtiki where she says women suffer among the highest rates of criminal victimisation resulting in serious harm or death in New Zealand.

- Alexis LewGor was born in Fiji with German, Chinese and Samoan ancestors. She played a major part in establishing the Rotorua Pacific Islands Development Charitable Trust and the Rotorua Multicultural Council, and in these capacities she has empowered many migrant women to take leadership roles in their own communities, enabling them to invest in their own development.

- Dr Sandra Velarde came from Peru to Rotorua in 2014. She is an associate research leader at Scion, managing the environmental economics and governance research portfolios, including rural and urban green spaces, indigenous forestry, and biofuels. As a Homeward Bound alumna, she recently returned from an expedition in Antarctica to help improve the role of women in science.

- Born and raised in Zimbabwe, Faustinah Ndlovu has worked in the New Zealand Health and Disability sector for 13 years. She is a volunteer co-ordinator and guide for Achilles International New Zealand, a Zimbabwean Rural School Library Trust Ambassador, Tariro Project Zimbabwe founder and a member of the Rotorua Multicultural Council Executive Committee.