Activism and Advocacy in Three Women’s Organizations in New Zealand

Margaret Thomas Evans 

Indiana University East, USA

Editor’s Note: We are highlighting scholarship that will be featured at the RWSA 15th Triennial conference in Jonesboro, Arkansas, USA, May 15-19, 2024.

New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world in which women gained the right to vote in parliamentary elections as authorized by an act of parliament in 1893 ( This presentation explores activism and advocacy work and how it is rhetorically presented in three women’s organizations in New Zealand: Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ), The New Zealand Federation of Women’s Institutes (NZFWI), and National Council of Women of New Zealand (NCWNZ). Based on their websites and social media, two are clearly political and involved in gender rights while the third appears to be primarily focused on social activities and community events. 

NCWNZ, established in 1896, has historically promoted “improvements to the quality of life of women, families and the community.”  Their work has shaped the society and economics of New Zealand. They are currently focusing on a gender equal New Zealand (

RWNZ, founded in 1925, began as the women’s group associated with the Farmer’s Union and thus has a rural focus. The group now serves as “an authoritative voice on health services, education, environment and social issues in the rural sector” focusing on empowering women and girls ( 

NZFWI, begun in 1921, claims not to be political and primarily provides social activities for its members. However, a Facebook post from October 2022 indicates that the members celebrated equal representation in Parliament; while this shows progress for gender equality, it represents a binary.  Although not necessarily politically active, they clearly value gender rights and also support various charitable causes via fundraising ( 

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