Double jeopardy or double advantage? Ethnic women in New Zealand politics
13 February 2020
Where are all the ethnic women leaders in the stories we tell ourselves about Aotearoa New Zealand, past and present?
“Ethnic minority women New Zealanders (defined as non-Pākehā, non-Māori, non-Pacific) have been involved in politics since the time of Kate Sheppard and they remain active at all levels today,” says University of Auckland Associate Professor Rachel Simon-Kumar.
“But at a time when ethnic minority women are emerging as the new face of radical politics across several Anglo-European democracies, and despite their historical and contemporary relevance to New Zealand politics, they are largely invisible in both this country’s academic research and the public imagination.”
Dr Simon-Kumar, along with Professor Priya Kurian from the University of Waikato, have received more than $800,000 from the Marsden Fund/Te Pūtea Rangahau a Marsden to investigate this uncharted involvement of ethnic women in New Zealand politics.
The researchers – both ethnic women academics – are compiling in-depth biographies of significant ethnic women politicians across the generations, drawing on a range of sources from campaign manifestos, council meetings, and select committee meetings to interviews, parliamentary transcripts and media coverage.
..at a time when ethnic minority women are emerging as the new face of radical politics across several Anglo-European democracies...they are largely invisible in this country’s academic research and the public imagination.
Their study, titled Double jeopardy or double advantage? Ethnic women in New Zealand politics, will explore the experiences of ethnic women politicians, asking questions such as: What are the barriers to ethnic women’s participation in politics? How do they navigate multiple interests in politics – of gender, of ethnicity, and of their party affiliations? How are they represented as politicians in the media?
Dr Simon-Kumar, from the Department of Social and Community Health in the University of Auckland's Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, says ethnic women are integral actors in mainstream governance, as serving and past MPs, local councillors, mayors, successful and failed political candidates, and public servants. Examples include current MPs Melissa Lee (National), Golriz Ghahraman (Greens) and Priyanca Radhakrishnan (Labour).
“We want this study to help throw light on issues of gender, leadership and minority politics in Aotearoa New Zealand, and by looking at ethnic minority and gender politics from ‘the inside’ extend international scholarship on intersectional feminist theory,” she says.
The research is the first of its kind in Aotearoa New Zealand and is a project both ‘about and by’ ethnic women.
Nicola Shepheard | Media adviser
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