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First meeting of the National Council of Women in ChCh in 1896. Kate Sheppard is 5th from the left, seated. CREDIT: National Library

National Council of Women Annual Conference in Christchurch This Weekend.
Wednesday 13 September 2017, 3:58PM
By Ali Jones PR and Communications


In the city that the most prominent member of the New Zealand's women's suffrage movement made her home, the National Council of Women NZ will hold its annual conference this weekend.

Hosted by the NCWNZ Christchurch Branch, it will also celebrate 100 years of the National Council of Women in the city that Kate Sheppard, who founded the organisation, lived and led her fight from until her death in 1934.

Christchurch branch chair Ellen McCrae believes the conference theme of “A Gender Equal New Zealand” is as relevant now as it ever was.

“We still have a long way to go until we can proudly say we have achieved gender equality in New Zealand. Women are being as much as 14% less than male counterparts; one in four women experiencing intimate partner violence or sexual violence in their lifetime; and women only occupying about 30% of seats in Parliament – it’s clear we have plenty of work to do,” she says.

The International Guest Speaker this year at the Friday evening dinner is speaker, scientist, adventurer and storyteller, Dr Sarah Kessans. She earned her PhD in 2011 from Arizona State University, where she worked to develop a plant-based vaccine against HIV. Arriving in New Zealand in 2012, she has spent the last few years at the university's School of Biological Sciences with Renwick Dobson, gaining biochemistry experience in enzyme evolution and characterisation.

Outside the lab, Dr Kessans can be found kayaking down rivers, biking in the mountains, running around ultimate frisbee pitches, and generally exploring New Zealand's natural wonders. She’s already had plenty of adventure in her 34 years on the planet, including spending 16 hours clinging to a capsized rowboat in the Atlantic Ocean during a 3000-mile race in 2006 and then coming back to set a world record for rowing across the Atlantic in 2008.

The two-day conference which starts on Friday afternoon in Christchurch includes a panel discussion on how to build a consent culture, a workshop on Best Practice around consent and healthy relationships education, a presentation on the Gender Equality Campaign and the AGM with voting for new board members on Saturday.

“This is an exciting and important time for women in New Zealand, in fact around the world. We must continue to empower our young women to stand up to retain the rights won by their older sisters and keep on pushing for gender equality which is a right still not won,” says Ellen McCrae.

National Council of Women, NZ Conference: 2pm Friday 15 Sept – 4pm Saturday 16 Sept at the Rydges Latimer Christchurch.


A Blast from the Past: (source:

Kate Sheppard travelled the country, writing to newspapers, holding public meetings and lobbying members of Parliament. Opposition was fierce.

As Wellington resident Henry Wright wrote, women were “recommended to go home, look after their children, cook their husbands’ dinners, empty the slops, and generally attend to the domestic affairs for which Nature designed them”; they should give up “meddling in masculine concerns of which they are profoundly ignorant”.

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Conference hashtags: #GenderEqualNZ #ncwnz

What We Do
Our Strategic Vision
The National Council of Women has a strategic vision to achieve a gender equal New Zealand. By building understanding and driving action for gender equality, we enable New Zealanders to have the freedom and opportunity to determine their own future.

We want all New Zealanders to say, “gender is irrelevant in terms of achievement and freedom”; “all societal roles are valued in New Zealand”; “I can be whatever I want to be” and “employment supports gender equality and work/life balance”.

At the moment, all New Zealanders cannot say these things. While we once were a leader in gender equality, in 2016 the statistics show our work is not done. Our research shows that if we are to successfully achieve our vision of a gender equal New Zealand the potential impact is huge – socially, and economically.

We Drive Cultural Change
The reasons for gender inequality are entrenched in our culture. We need to drive cultural change and hold New Zealand accountable for its progress to achieve equality. We need to tackle this problem at its root cause and take a long, hard look at our language and attitudes towards gender. We need to stop it at the start.

We Lead and Connect
Established by our founding President Kate Sheppard in 1896, we have around 290 member organisations at a national or local level representing over 100,000 women with many of our member organisations representing all genders. We also have 21 branches around the country. We represent a collaborative network covering membership, public, private and not for profit organisations.

We Inform and Influence
Our members have the opportunity to contribute to discussion and submissions on policies that impact the opportunities and welfare of women. NCWNZ represents these views to policymakers.

Every month, NCWNZ members receive an update on current issues via our newsletter, The Circular. Non-members can subscribe to The Circular for $50 per year.
Email us for more information.

We Take Action
Our current work includes:
Enabling women’s potential: the social, economic and ethical imperative
Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
Women’s Voices: Recording women’s experiences of the Canterbury Earthquakes

We are a member of the Pay Equity Challenge and 26 for Babies: Campaign to Extend Paid Parental Leave . INDEX