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Jessica Tahua (R) and then future Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (centre) with Sophia Curnow (L) in March 2017 (Photo: Kathy Tohill).
Jessica Tahua (R) and then future Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (centre) with Sophia Curnow (L) in March 2017 (Photo: Kathy Tohill).

ParentsApril 8, 2018

The 11-year-old feminist, activist and future PM

Jessica Tahua (R) and then future Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (centre) with Sophia Curnow (L) in March 2017 (Photo: Kathy Tohill).
Jessica Tahua (R) and then future Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (centre) with Sophia Curnow (L) in March 2017 (Photo: Kathy Tohill).

There’s a photo taken a few years ago of Jacinda Ardern and a young girl called Jessica Tuhua. Remember it well, because one day it might be used to recall the moment one future female prime minister of New Zealand met another. In our series, brought to you by our friends at Flick, celebrating the amazing things young New Zealanders do every day, Angela Cuming meets Jessica.

Those who argue against lowering the voting age in New Zealand would do well to spend a bit of time listening to what 11-year-old Jessica Tuhua has to say. Jessica is an activist, a feminist, and may one day follow the same path as one of her idols, Jacinda Ardern, and become prime minister of New Zealand. Activism means a lot to Jessica because, as she simply puts it, ” there are many things about the world that is needy of change”.

”I’m Tuhoe. Tuhoe are fierce people. We didn’t sign the Treaty of Waitangi,” she says.

”Activism is important because you can tell people what you believe needs to be changed, and what’s wrong,” she says. ”It helps to make the world a better place. People are generally very selfish, they are selfish with their stuff and selfish about their lives and they don’t mind staying ignorant of what’s happening around them.”

At only 11, Jessica already is acutely aware of the concept of privilege, not just of others but of her own.

”I’m talking about myself as well,” she says. “I’ve got a comfortable life and it’s hard not to just focus on myself and my happiness. But I have to challenge myself, everybody needs to challenge themselves.”

Jessica Tahua is fierce, feminist and 11 years old (Photo: supplied).

All this may seem overwhelming even to the most well-adjusted adult, but Jessica is pragmatic about her place in the world. Her activism is dedicated to getting people to look at what’s happening around them, finding solutions to the problems they see, and putting those solutions into action. Jessica credits her mother Sarai Tuhua for teaching her about feminism.

”I can’t recall a moment in my life when I haven’t been a feminist,” she says. ”Mum has always been teaching me about feminism, and I think it’s unfair that some people groups are placed above other people groups. Feminism isn’t just about promoting women’s rights anymore, it’s about promoting the rights of all oppressed people. Indigenous people, LGBTQ people, people with different abilities and different ways of thinking.”

Jessica wants other kids to become activists too, to take notice of the issues around the world, seize hold of one of them, and improve that problem. You’re never too young to make a difference, she says.

”Even children can make a difference in the world. Look at Malala! She stood up for girl’s education, and she was very young. ”

It’s fair to say Jessica was a wee bit excited when Jacinda Ardern became prime minister. She got to meet Ardern a few years ago, and she was impressed by the way the future PM listened to her and helped her with a now rather famous speech on feminism.

”I’ve always been Jacinda’s biggest fan and I see this as a fantastic step forward. Jacinda is an amazing activist, feminist woman. She is a great leader, and one of my old teachers told me that she won all of the speech competitions at school. She really cares about children. Mummy told me when and why Jacinda decided to go into politics, and it was because when she was a kid she lived in a place with kids living in poverty and she wanted to help.”

Ardern’s ambition to enter politics and influence change left a lasting effect on Jessica.

”Jacinda was a child when she set this goal and she has been working on it ever since and now she is in the ultimate position to change this.”

Jessica has clear goals she wants to achieve through her activism for 2018 and beyond.

She’s a librarian at Nelson Christian Academy this year and wants to use her role to encourage other children to learn about social justice by recommending books that promote social equality and diversity. She would also like to start a project where she finds ways to supply kids with books.

”I’ve always had access to lots of books but lots of kids don’t,” she says. ”And when they do have books, they’re not often of the kind that include all kinds of people and situations. I want to raise funds to get good books everywhere.”

So where does Jessica see herself 10 years from now?

”I will be 21 years old, probably at university. I’m very interested in politics, but I’m also interested in being an author, or a missionary. I guess the future is a mystery!”

But while the next chapter of her life is still being written, Jessica will no doubt live true to the message she has for The Spinoff Parents’ readers.

”Don’t waste time and energy judging people. Follow your dreams and help save the world!”

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