Celebrating International Women's Day 2023

For International Women's Day today, we thought we'd pay tribute to a handful of disabled women doing important mahi here in Aotearoa New Zealand who you should know about. This is by no means an exhaustive list -- rather just a snapshot of women suggested by the ODI team. Here's information we found online about these women and their achievements.

Catherine Greenwood

A photo of Catherine

The deputy chair of the NZSL Board, Catherine has a wealth of experience across the Deaf and hearing communities, with a history of participation in a range of organisations, including Auckland Deaf Society and early childhood providers for her children. She is currently completing her Masters in Language & Culture at Auckland University of Technology (AUT). Catherine brings a strong knowledge of the challenges children face accessing and learning NZSL, linguistics, language planning and policies. She has exceptional leadership skills.

Geraldine Pomeroy QSM

As an Access Coordinator for CCS Disability Action, Gerri Pomeroy has worked to improve public transport services for disabled people. She conducted an audit of the accessibility of Otorohanga’s public places that resulted in a series of accessibility measures being implemented. She co-initiated the Measuring Accessible Journeys project, which identified that upgrading public infrastructure areas could lead to a large increase in mobility aid users accessing public spaces. Geraldine co-chaired the community steering group that worked on establishing Whaikaha, the Ministry of Disabled People and remains a member of Whaikaha’s disability reference group. 

Dr. Huhana Hickey MNZM, MInstD LLB/BSocSci, LLM (distinction), PhD in Law and tikanga Māori

Dr Huhana Hickey, a Māori woman with a moko and glasses

Huhana has a long-standing interest in the human rights of people from marginalised backgrounds and the consequences of discrimination and social oppression. She is a scholar of disabilities research and legal theory and is noted for the breadth of her published cross-disciplinary research. One of Huhana’s goals is to increase the knowledge of indigenous peoples with disabilities along with increasing their profile and inclusion in all levels of society.

Huhana is a former director on the HCNZ board, currently on the Human Rights review Tribunal, board member on Odyssey House drug rehabilitation board, a DISAC member, on the Manukau Health park advisory team, on the CMDHB clinical governance team, and SMS another hospital appointment, advisor to different ministerial policy projects, was an advisor to the welfare expert advisory group, currently an expert advisor re housing for the Human Rights Commission, has her own consultancy (Pukenga Consultancy), is President of the Māori Women’s Welfare league Te Hokinga Mai branch for Disabled Māori women. Former chair of the Medicinal Cannabis Awareness NZ Trust. A partner, Mum, Nana and keen singer, writer and poet.

Lavinia Lovo

Lavina is the I.Lead & Pacific Projects Coordinator and is a major advocate for Pasifika youth with visible and invisible disabilities. Lavinia also sits on the I.Lead Committee. She has been part of many different Pasifika projects within the disability sector and is a resounding voice when it comes to the nature of Pasifika youth with disabilities and how they fit into their families/aiga, communities and culture. Niah helped found Nesian – a Pacific youth with disabilities performing arts group – which allows our young people to express themselves creatively.

She is also working alongside the Ministry of Education to help make New Zealand’s education system more accessible and adaptable for all people with disabilities and learning differences.

Martine Abel-Williamson (QSM)

Martine is the Co-chair of Auckland Council’s Disability Advisory Panel. She is also the World Blind Union (WBU) president and serves on the boards of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Accessible Books Consortium (ABC), International Disability Alliance (IDA and International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB). She also holds positions on the boards of Blind Citizens NZ and the Royal NZ Foundation of the Blind. Her day job is as Senior Human Rights Advisor at the New Zealand Human Rights Commission.

Olivia Shivas

Olivia is a digital producer and journalist at Stuff. With a lived experience of disability and a Chinese/Malaysian background, Olivia is passionate about empowering groups and communities that are often marginalised. She is the youngest member on the Board of Trustees at StarJam, a not-for-profit organisation providing free musical workshops for young people with disabilities.

In 2016, Olivia was voted onto the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s National Council as the Rangatahi Youth Representative for a two-year term. In this role, she reported to the council on behalf of the youth, organised events and supported young people with muscular dystrophy.  Last year, Olivia co-hosted a podcast about the lives of disabled people called What’s wrong with you?.

Pinky Fang

Pinky, a young blind woman, sits on the couch with her black Labrador guide dog

Pinky is a Lyttleton-based artist. She wrote for us about having an invisible disability back in 2020. 

Prudence Walker

Prudence is the Chief Executive, Disabled Persons Assembly NZ. A proud disabled woman also identifying as part of the rainbow community, Prudence comes from a strong social justice perspective. She is interested in achieving equity for disabled people with respect to all our intersecting identities and is an experienced facilitator with a specific history of working with young people, disabled people, and people who are migrants. Before her current role, she worked for 11 years for CCS Disability Action in a variety of roles. Prudence has lived in many parts of Aotearoa and is now based in Ōtautahi Christchurch.

Rāhera Turner

Rachel’s whakapapa includes tupuna from Waikato/Tainui, Te Patupō and Tūwharetoa. Rachel leads Equal Voice's Arts' Deaf Awareness workshop programme, teaching artists, arts organisations and theatres about Deaf culture, Deaf world view, and teaching NZSL. She is a qualified NZSL tutor and brings her warmth, openness and language and cultural expertise to her work.

Rachel has lectured at Universities in Aotearoa and overseas about Equal Voices Arts’ approach to making original bicultural and bilingual theatre work and has appeared on international video podcasts discussing access and inclusion. Rachel also consults with government organisations and arts organisations about how to make funding opportunities and events more accessible for D/deaf communities. Rachel has also served several terms on the NZSL Board in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Dame Sophie Pascoe: a New Zealand para-swimmer. She has represented New Zealand at four Summer Paralympic Games from 2008, winning a total of eleven gold medals, seven silver medals and one bronze medal, making her New Zealand's most successful Paralympian.

Susan Williams

Susan, surrounded by sock puppets in an image from her show

They are an actor and writer. We wrote about their show Illegally Blind last year

Victoria Manning

Victoria is the former General Manager Strategy for Deaf Aotearoa and now Policy Manager in the Ministry of Justice’s Joint Venture Business Unit for the Elimination of Family Violence and Sexual Violence. Victoria was also one of two individuals who took a human rights case against the largest telecommunications company and succeeded in establishing a telephone relay service for New Zealand.

Victoria was employed at the Government’s Office for Disability Issues when the Government directed the drafting of a Bill to give official recognition to New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL). Victoria was a key advisor on the NZSL Bill for four years (2003 – 2006) from its initial development and throughout its progress through Parliament.

While working at the Human Rights Commission Victoria led the Commission’s Inquiry into NZSL. The resulting report “A New Era in the Right to Sign” (2013) included recommendations for government funding to support early acquisition of NZSL and a governing body to oversee the promotion and maintenance of NZSL, both of which have now been implemented.

Having worked in disability policy for many years, Victoria authored the Disabled Persons Organisations’ (DPOs) civil society report on New Zealand’s progress on the implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). A highlight of her career was being chosen by the DPOs to represent disabled New Zealanders at the United Nations in Geneva, in September 2014, for New Zealand’s first examination of its progress under the CRPD.  Victoria then attended New Zealand’s second examination in front of UN, this time as a representative working for the Ministry of Justice. 

Victoria was awarded a Queen’s medal in 2015 for services to the Deaf and disabled communities.

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