Inspiring readers on International Women’s Day 2018

Books and resources about inspirational women are ideal starters for discussions with students about gender stereotypes, dreams, and determination.

International Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated around the world every year on 8 March. Since 1911, International Women’s Day has served to progress the movement for women’s rights and to advance the status and empowerment of women worldwide. This year’s theme is #PressforProgress, which aims to motivate and unite “friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive".

As Helen Clark, New Zealand’s first elected female Prime Minister said:

Girls can do anything. We do do anything and we expect to be treated as equals.
Women marching for women's rights. Front marcher holding banner saying 'Girls just wanna have FUNdamental human rights'
NYC Womens March by Anne Ruthmann. CC BY-NC 2.0.

New Zealand resources celebrating women

What better way to celebrate International Women’s Day 2018 than through books and resources about unique and diverse women and girls? Whether reading about iconic women or about brave, clever, problem-solving, and creative girls and teenagers dealing with everyday challenges, young readers learn from and are inspired by stories.

First country to give women the vote — 125 years ago!

Start by exploring resources about our own country, New Zealand, being the first country to give women the right to vote. This year, New Zealand is celebrating the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage. Kate Sheppard led the campaign, which ultimately resulted in the signing of the suffrage petition and the passing of the Electoral Act on 19 September 1893. The National Library of New Zealand’s He Tohu exhibition, which is based on three constitutional documents that shaped New Zealand, includes the 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition — Te Petihana Whakamana Pōti Wahine.

For more information on women’s suffrage, head to ManyAnswers while Topic Explorer’s Women in Aotearoa provides links to a range of digital resources around women’s suffrage, and other historical and contemporary issues.

A social inquiry learning resource on gender equality is also part of the He Tohu suite of National Library resources, which includes activities such as:

International Women’s Day 2018 resources

International Women’s Day, in partnership with Penguin, has created a range of reading and writing-related resources for schools to help educate children about gender equality issues including:

  • the International Women's Day Resource Pack for Schools — stories and authors selected to spark discussion in classrooms
  • a worldwide writing competition for children — open until 30 March 2018
  • the International Women's Day Book Study — material for five, hour-long lessons that can take place during classes or as extra-curricular activities, covering literacy, history, drama, and art objectives
  • the International Women's Day Reading List — a curated round-up of the best fiction and non-fiction books for raising the next generation of feminists keen to #PressforProgress:
    International Women's Day Schools Reading List (5–15 years)
    International Women's Day Pioneering Women Reading List (15+ years).

5 inspirational books

You can also order empowering and inspirational books for reading engagement and topic inquiry from Services to Schools. Information on requesting books is found in the lending service section of our website. Here are a few we recommend:

Maria Gill’s New Zealand Hall of Fame: 50 Remarkable Kiwis explores the lives of well-known New Zealanders, from Margaret Mahy, Jean Batten, and Boh and Bic Runga, to pioneers such as Trade Aid Founder Vi Cottrell. This is an accessible introduction to some fascinating lives made more so by cartoonist Bruce Potter’s distinctive caricatures.

Sky High: Jean Batten's Incredible Flying Adventures by David Hill and illustrated by Phoebe Morris (Picture Puffin) tells the story of Kiwi pilot Jean Batten, who made the first-ever solo flight from England to New Zealand in 1936.

Gladys Sandford was a First World War ambulance driver, a mechanic, and the first woman in New Zealand to get a pilot’s license. In Gladys Goes to War, Glyn Harper and Jenny Cooper tell the story of the woman who was told:

This will be a short war and women will not be needed. If you really want to help the war effort, you should stay home and knit socks and balaclavas.

This hasn’t actually been published yet but come 8 April, keep an eye out for Go Girl: A Storybook of Epic NZ Women. Written by Barbara Else and illustrated by some of New Zealand’s finest, it explores the lives of extraordinary Kiwi women such as Kate Sheppard, Jean Batten, Dame Whina Cooper, Janet Frame, Te Puea Herangi, Lorde, and others.

Although a work of fiction, Bastion Point: 507 Days on Takaparawha by Tania Roxborogh gives a diary-style account of the 1977–78 occupation of Bastion Point, told from the perspective of a young New Zealander, Erica Tito. Through diary-style entries, she illustrates the importance of courage, determination, and whānau in overcoming challenges:

What have I learned? That I am more patient than I thought I could be. That I'm a good help. I've learned about Dad's people but also heaps about our history — things we are not taught at school. I've learned that I am not alone.

Join the growing global movement of advocacy, activism, and support

Movements like #MeToo, #TimesUp, and more are contributing to the global momentum striving for equality. However, according to World Economic Forum's 2017 Global Gender Gap Report, gender parity is still over 200 years away.

International Women's Day is not country, group, or organisation-specific, but a chance for everyone to work together to ensure that women don't just have a voice — but are empowered to use it. The call to action for this year's International Women's Day suggests that our collective action can power equality worldwide if each of us commits "to press for progress for gender parity in your own sphere of influence."

So let's all #PressforProgress, and take our next community gathering, classroom lesson, or dinner table conversation opportunity to advocate for equity.

By Jo Buchan

Jo is the Senior Specialist (Developing Readers) for Services to Schools.

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Gary Rowe March 9th at 7:15PM

How come we only have people campaigning for equality for women in selected areas. I thought women want equal rights across the board.
Women receive 63% less jail time than men for comparable crimes , why is that ?
Come on ladies how about jumping on board that one and campaigning for equality there.
There are plenty of other areas which are not getting mentioned also !!