Kate Sheppard, who lived here at this very house, was the leading light of the New Zealand women’s suffrage movement.
Thank you Julia for allowing the Foundation to use your home for today’s event, which not only celebrates the special place Christchurch holds in New Zealand and world history, but also allows us to announce that the Christchurch Foundation is today recognising this legacy by launching the Christchurch Foundation Women’s Fund.
We are launching the Fund to support girls and women in our city who are actively leading change in their community -
- Change that is focused on positive outcomes for our city and its residents
- Change that is driven by people coming together to offer grassroots support for our communities
This is very much in keeping with the spirit of the suffragists. I reflected at the Women’s Suffrage National memorial earlier today, what courage and tenacity they represented.
They had no electronic media, no give-a-little page, no means to communicate other than through cycling and pounding the pavements, street by street, collecting signatures and never giving up. The first two petitions did not succeed, but the third one did and the rest is history.
And then for over 60% of the female population to both register and vote in the election just a matter of weeks later is an extraordinary story.
It took 25 years for women to get the right to stand for Parliament and another 15 years after that for the first woman to be elected to Parliament – and she was from Christchurch too – Elizabeth McCombs representing the set of Lyttleton. And another 14 years for the first woman to be appointed as a Cabinet Minister – also from Christchurch, the Hon Mabel Howard.
In my role as Mayor of the city, Kate Sheppard and the suffrage movement is very much a part of the Christchurch story – they are an important part of our identity – of who we are.
Which is why I am proud that the first endowment fund the Christchurch Foundation is launching is this women’s fund, so that the spirit of 125 years ago lives on.
And we can ensure that the next generation of women and girls can continue to make a difference.
The grants will not come with complicated accountability requirements.
Those that accept the awards will simply be asked to share their story with The Christchurch Foundation and allow us to publicise their progress. That way a small contribution can spark a major inspiration.
These grants will create stories that we can then share showing women and girls making change happen – stories that we need to hear more of.
Our first awards will be issued in 2019 and will occur annually. Our ability to give will ultimately be determined by the level of donations that we get into the fund.
Why Women and Girls? We know that women and girls are only getting between 5 – 10% of the charitable dollar in countries like Australia and America. That proportion is likely to be similar here.
Few grant-making organisations have a specific criterion of supporting gender equality and are not even aware of what proportion of their funding supports women. Although we have come a long way, in New Zealand:
- Women are still very much the face of poverty;
- 85% of single parent families are led by women
- Women earn 9% less than men on average, a figure which has improved considerably over the years - but for our Maori women this figure is 24%, and for Pasifika women it is 31%
- There is a gender bias to the domestic violence statistics that remain alarmingly high
Who can get involved? Anyone can join, participate and contribute at a level that suits their budget. We imagine that there will be many women that want to give. However, sons, fathers and brothers care about the world their mothers, daughters and sisters live in, and will want to contribute too.
Organisations can also join the Women’s Fund as part of their drive to create change.
A group of donors to the fund will be co-opted to drive the awards process at the beginning, along with one of the Christchurch Foundation’s Trustees, and they will put in place a framework for the future, as well as select the first recipients.
We welcome your donations and hope you will help us to spread the word about the Fund.
I believe it is truly a wonderful way to honour those courageous women who we recognise on the Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage, as well as our place in the world, where it all began 125 years ago, Christchurch, New Zealand.