The heartwarming photos of "first baby" Neve at the United Nations this week with her mum — Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern — and dad have sent waves of hope around the world.

Not only are we the first country in the world where women gained the vote, we recognise our leader's ability is not constrained by being a mum of a young'un.

I was honoured to be among seven diverse women who spoke at Whanganui's Suffrage Day event this month. They all stood out but one in particular, Dani Lebo, has allowed me to share part of her speech.

Dani's words brought tears to my eyes as she spoke of her privilege and advantages in life, and how it's time for change.


Here's an edited excerpt:

"Writing a speech on inspirational women made me wrestle with my ideas of what it means to be inspirational and successful.

"Of who we are drawing inspiration from. Of who we are listening to. Of whose stories we are sharing and amplifying.

"We are headed towards a time of environmental, political, and economic change. Many of us want to be part of a better system. We cannot create a better system using the same thinking that we used to make a broken system.

"We cannot be problem-solvers and innovators if we are seeking inspiration from the same sources we always have.

"We need to look to those who have succeeded in spite of a system that was built to keep them down and really listen, even when it is uncomfortable or difficult.

"I have a friend who, before the age of 30, found herself in an abusive relationship with a teenage son and three young daughters. This woman made a choice to leave her town, her entire support network to start over.

"She then became an active part of her community, supporting other mothers.


"Her life was changed again. She saw two children in her extended family placed into foster care. Although these children had significant needs, although she was already solo-parenting her own children, she became their permanent caregiver, their mum.

"And now this woman, who many people would never notice, is just quietly doing her thing. And she is doing it so well. She is gentle, and kind, and creates magic for all of her children.

"I asked her if she thought she was an inspiration.

"She said: 'I have always felt that I may be able to inspire people that have lived in the world I used to live in. Poverty, abuse, drugs, gangs – so much more. But I could never inspire people that have their shiz together'."

"That makes me angry … because that isn't that just the narrative that we have all been taught to believe?

"But let me tell you, I'm one of those people who looks like they have their shiz together, and I want to – I need – to learn from this woman.

"A different woman spoke of working every day through a week-long miscarriage, which ultimately ended in her being rushed from work to hospital in an ambulance.

"While in the back of the ambulance she was on the phone arranging childcare for her two other children.

"She was back at work the next day – because we aren't given grief or excess sickness days for miscarriage – and her well intentioned, unknowing colleague asked: "Feeling better now?" "Yeah", she said, because, how do you answer that.

"That is a really difficult story to listen to. But, what fortitude. That is a woman I want to learn from.

"Another woman spoke of the choice she had to make when discovering at 22 weeks that her unborn baby had Turner's Syndrome and would never live outside the womb.

"She went through a late term termination that involved inducing labour, an experience that hurt her physically and mentally.

"Chronic illness, mental illness, loss, abuse, poverty. The refugee, the Chinese immigrants, the tangata whenua persisting through generations of colonisation. These are the stories that don't get told. These are the stories that we want to hear, only if they have an uplifting happy ending.

"But you know what, these women, who are simply persisting and existing through these circumstances every day, are the women we need to learn from.

"125 years ago women in NZ fought for our vote to be counted… 125 years later we need to ask ourselves, is every voice being heard?

"We need to challenge ourselves to include and support and uplift all women, all voices, by seeking out the difficult stories and learning from each other."

I'm grateful to Dani for sharing these challenges. Let's amplify the missing voices.

Nicola Patrick is a Horizons regional councillor, works for Te Kaahui o Rauru, and is part of a new social enterprise hub, Thrive Whanganui. A mother of two boys, she has a science degree and is a Green Party member.