The community is encouraged to join in with marking an important moment in our nation's history this weekend - women being granted the right to vote.
In 1893, New Zealand became the first nation in the world to grant women the right to vote.
Suffrage Day (September 19) is a significant day in New Zealand's history.
It provides an opportunity for individuals and organisations to celebrate New Zealand's suffrage achievements and look for ways to make further progress to benefit women.
Members of the Zonta Club of Rotorua are inviting the community to join them in celebrating the 128th anniversary of women's suffrage on September 19, at the Zonta Suffrage Grove in Centennial Park (formerly known as the Rotorua Tree Trust).
The Zonta Suffrage Grove, established in 1993, has 35 trees planted to acknowledge Rotorua women and community groups. Many of these contributed to women's advancement in Rotorua.
Zonta NZ Governor and member of the Rotorua club Desirae Kirby, says the celebration will start at 11am at the park's entrance where the Zonta plaque is located.
Members and guests will walk through the Suffrage Grove where the names of each woman or group will be read out and a white camellia placed on each tree.
Following the walk through the grove, Desirae will be speaking at the spot where the
Kate Sheppard white camellias were planted during the 100th and 125th anniversary commemorations.
Everyone is then invited to bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the beauty of Centennial Park, weather permitting.
Desirae says members of the community are very welcome to join and bring a picnic along.
"It's important all citizens have the right to participate in choosing their government and with the erosion of women's rights that is seen in so many countries at present, it's important to celebrate the day and remind ourselves our work is not over.
"This is an opportunity for people to come together and mark an important event in New Zealand's history and the world's history."
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick will also speak at the event, and says there is a whakatauki (proverb) that she thinks is very appropriate to Suffrage Day: "Me aro ki te hā o Hine-ahu-one. Pay heed to the mana of women."
She says Suffrage Day is one to remember what women fought for 128 years ago.
"The event is our community's opportunity to remember the suffragists and what they fought for, and to reflect on women's rights today.
"Today, we have women at the highest levels of politics but there are still parts of the world where the rights of women are very much under threat."
She says in New Zealand, while she is sure Kate Sheppard would have been very proud to see a woman prime minister, she would be somewhat disappointed that there are still so many of us – not just women either – who don't take the opportunity they have to vote.
"Next year we have local government elections. Voting is our right – it's a way for us to be heard and to ensure there is diversity among those who are elected to represent us all and make decisions for the good of us all.
"Now more than ever, with growing inequality, poverty and housing challenges, we need diversity at decision-making tables and I encourage all in our community, including women, to provide feedback and when the time comes, to vote."
More than 90,000 New Zealand women went to the polls on November 28 in 1893.
Despite warnings from suffrage opponents that "lady voters" might be harassed at polling booths, the atmosphere on election day was relaxed, even festive.
Zonta is an international service organisation of business and professional women working to improve the status of women through service and advocacy.
- What: Women's Suffrage Day Celebration 2021
- When: Sunday, September 19, 11am
- Where: Centennial Park (Tree Trust)