Side-by-side: for #SuffrageDay, women MPs recreated an iconic photo of MPs taken in 1905 in the Reading Room of the Parliamentary Library. #WhakatūWāhine #WomenInPolitics #nzpol— NZ Parliament (@NZParliament) September 19, 2018
Read more about today's #Suffrage125 celebrations: https://t.co/9FF2t5f73C pic.twitter.com/F4FF7E3E90
To celebrate that achievement, 39 of the country’s 46 current female members of Parliament re-created a photo on Wednesday that dates back to 1905 and shows New Zealand’s all-male Parliament at the time. For its 2018 version, Ardern brought along her infant daughter.
New Zealand’s female parliamentary membership is 38 percent, placing it above the 2015 global average of 22.1 percent. The nation with the highest proportion of female MPs was Rwanda, where 63.8 percent of lower house lawmakers were women in 2015.
The number of women holding positions in legislatures or executive government has increased in recent years, according to a study by the Inter-Parliamentary Union that was released in 2016. Data collected by the authors showed women’s membership in parliaments almost doubled from more than 11 percent in 1995 to about 22 percent in 2015. Most of the changes have occurred in Africa, where four countries made it into the global top 10.
Meanwhile, the United States ranked 96th in terms of female politicians represented at the national level, lagging behind Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, according to my colleagues Melissa Etehad and Jeremy C.F. Lin. The United States has also been outperformed by neighboring nations such as Canada, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau nominated a 50 percent female cabinet three years ago.
But even in countries such as New Zealand that have led the way, being a female politician can have pitfalls, as Ardern encountered this month when she faced harsh criticism for taking an extra plane ride to spend time with her daughter and avoid being away from her for a days-long Pacific islands summit. The extra trip cost taxpayers between $30,000 and $65,000.
“The other option was for me not attend at all, but, given the importance that we place on the relationships with the Pacific islands in the reset, that equally didn’t feel like an option,” Ardern said in justifying her decision.
Her critics, meanwhile, have rejected accusations that their criticism of Ardern was sexist.
To New Zealand’s female MPs, Wednesday’s photo session was a chance to celebrate what they and their predecessors have achieved. But some didn’t want to distract from the shortcomings that persist.
“Still so much more to do,” MP Nikki Kaye wrote on Twitter.
Celebrating all NZ women today including the 149 women parliamentarians who have been elected to Parliament in our history. 125 years on since NZ women secured the right to vote we acknowledge the suffragettes for their courage and fight to deliver this.Still so much more to do.. pic.twitter.com/XXUaAg10mH— Hon Nikki Kaye (@nikkikaye) September 19, 2018