Steph Lewis spoke on violence to MPs

Steph Lewis portrait from Labour websiteFormer Whanganui Member of Parliament Steph Lewis spoke on Tuesday 13 February 2024 at a regular meeting of the Whanganui NCWNZ branch. After a general summary of the history and goals of the National Council of Women as well as an overview on women in parliament today, we introduced Lewis. Carla Donson Manager of the Women's Network then put questions to Steph and it felt more like a conversation about her experiences and reflections being an MP.

Lewis focused on coping with public abuse that MPs, especially women MPs, endure. The abuse came from men and women. People threatened to protest at her home, and some would even follow her home from meetings. 

In February 2022, Lewis was harassed by anti-COVID vaccine mandate protestors outside Parliament. Some protestors came around the building banging on windows, and she heard them threatening to kidnap and lynch her. When Parliament adjourned at 10 p.m. protesters waited at the exit for MPs to leave, and security had to escort them from the building.

Parliamentary Services agreed to install security cameras and an alarm system in her home and office. She was advised by them to not go out by herself, even to the supermarket. At a Whanganui community festival, a man approached her to talk and became aggressive, continuing to follow and shout at her after she turned to walk away. She kept these incidents and resulting fears mainly to herself since she felt that not only was she at risk for further abuse, but also her family and staff. Her family agreed to move to a new home with security fencing and gates. In conclusion, we must remember that this violence impacts all women MPs and not just those from a particular party.

NCWNZ teamed up with the Women's Network for this event as part of the month-long festival honoring women. La Fiesta! NZ's Best Women's Fest runs from 10 February to 10 March this year (see more on this at We wanted to highlight that although NCWNZ members have made advances since 1896 we still have a long way to go.

Jenny Saywood,
Branch President, Whanganui NCWNZ


To read more articles from The Circular (January-February 2024) issue 645, click on the tag below.
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