Tipping the Balance

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Women outnumbered men in New Zealand’s parliament for the first time in the country’s history, after a Maori politician was sworn in Tuesday as the newest member of the ruling Labour party, Voice of America reported.

Soraya Peke-Mason was sworn in as a replacement for the outgoing Parliamentary Speaker Trevor Mallard, changing the legislature’s makeup to 60 women and 59 men.

The Maori politician said that female representation in parliament has been building momentum for some time.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Tuesday’s gender milestone in New Zealand politics was “significant and heartening.”

New Zealand now joins a handful of countries that have gender parity or near parity in parliament, including Rwanda and Mexico, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

In 1893, New Zealand became the first country to allow women to vote in parliamentary elections, more than two decades before Canada and the UK did the same.

Until the 1990s, there were very few women serving in the New Zealand legislature. But female participation grew after 1996 when a new voting system – mixed-member proportional representation – was introduced.

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