By Danielle Marks
Sep 09, 2019

Breaking the Glass Ceiling

Rangatahi are all too aware of the change that is needed for future generations and for Paapaatuuaanuku, and are willing to put their name in the hat. With the current ‘Youthquake’ in local body elections, we have seen so many rangatahi breaking the glass ceiling and shattering the expectations baby boomers have of us in politics.

Seed Waikato recently put out a report entitled, “Local Politics: Enhancing Youth Engagement” and the results were minimal. It has never been about a lack of political interest, but the fact that many rangatahi did not know where to start their political involvement. Even that is a big step for rangatahi who were never brought up in the political world.

For those who have put their hat in the ring, I believe there is a much greater glass ceiling that hasn’t been addressed within reports. The rangatahi that have put their name for candidacy will experience potential ‘troll-like’ behaviour for merely putting their name forward to represent their interests. What is not talked about is, if they are elected, the racist rhetoric that still lingers within Council. Stuff.com has made articles about the racist members of Hamilton City Council. The latest Politics in the Tron event identified those who don’t believe in the upkeep of tikanga within Council. It is because of these glass ceilings that I worry for rangatahi making and creating the change that they want to see in the world.

Now, this piece isn’t about the doom and gloom or about deterring people from running for positions but it is about something that needs to be addressed. How will we protect our rangatahi in positions of power within a system that was not made for us? To be ignorant truly is bliss. It is easy to sit back, especially in politics, and not want to be part of it because of the toxic nature that encompasses it. When you reach the point that you care enough to be part of a different movement to get people out, you become subject to a whole other world.

These are people you work with for three years, if elected, and begin to understand on a different level. Everything about us, as Maaori, is political. This is the livelihood of other Maaori that 13 people in Council get to deal with and influence on a daily basis. This is breaking the glass ceiling. Metiria Turei once used the analogy that politics is like a cage. We put ourselves in the cage so we can dismantle it from the inside in order to start a new mechanism that isn’t as debilitating.

We, as supporters, need to be there for our rangatahi who are making these moves both for us and with us. Once we get them into these positions, we mustn’t leave them high and dry, or worse, throw abuse at them for not doing the things we think are right, because there is a different ball game being played within those Council walls. Often it is people’s mental wellbeing that is neglected because we associate those with power as abusers of that power.

As a community, we hardly talk about the burnout culture that comes with people fighting for what they believe is right. When we want to see change, that is something that is more wairua based than anything, and when that is threatened or hurt, it takes a harder toll on those driving the change.

Our rangatahi know the change that needs to happen. We have seen it with rangatahi leading the change at Ihumaatao, and with the school climate strikes. Their mahi is so valuable and important, but we need to be there with them in these big changes.

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