One-hundred-and-twenty-five years ago, New Zealand became the first country in the world to grant women the right to vote. Here at VICE NZ, we wanted to celebrate that fact. But we also wanted to ask what that meant for the lives of women today, and to examine how much more there was to achieve.
Our Zealandia Women's Suffrage Series of documentaries—three documentaries released over the past month—was the result. While each documentary focused on what were ostensibly very different topics—female fighters, sex work, politics—themes emerged: notably the prevalence of violence—verbal and actual—still perpetrated against women across all levels of society.
But, of course, the other feature of the series was the passion of women who are fighting to make the world better for other women, and for everyone. VICE NZ's head of video Ursula Williams said that was the most special aspect of the project: "Hearing from a lot of women throughout the making of it, and hearing that there are other women who feel as strongly as I do about changing the status quo of where women reside in society is almost overwhelming.”
Our first documentary, released on the 125th anniversary of suffrage, was 'Lethal Ladies: New Zealand's Female Fighters', an intimate look at the emotional and physical toll at what it takes to get in the ring.
In this article, we travelled to the Far North to find out how the Toa Ngātihine gym and star fighter Quinita Hati channel Ngāti Hine's female-led history to inspire Northland youth:
We took a photographic behind-the-scenes look at the Lethal Ladies, Auckland's all-female fight night:
Next came 'Inside Sex Work in New Zealand'. New Zealand has the most progressive sex-work legislation in the world, but we wanted to find out what that actually meant for the sex workers of the Aotearoa. We found a profession—15 years after that world-leading legislation passed—still suffering from lingering stigma and wildly differing experiences, from an upmarket Wellington to the cold streets of Christchurch.
We also took a look at the issue of migrant sex work in Aotearoa, which is still criminalised under the law:
Last was 'Women in the House', an in-depth look at what it's like to be a female politician in Aotearoa in 2018. Embedding with women from across the political spectrum—Green MP Golriz Ghahraman, former Prime Minister Helen Clark, deputy leader of the opposition Paula Bennett, and Labour MP Louisa Wall—we examine what women bring to national politics, and the trolling and misogyny that accompanies being a strong woman with a national platform.
And we dived even deeper into the life Golriz Ghahraman, New Zealand's first refugee MP, to find out the toll the death threats and trolling can take:
And here, in their own words, a cross section of New Zealand's female MPs, tell us what they face that their male colleagues don't: