Duchess Meghan praises New Zealand on women's voting victory

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The Duchess of Sussex on Sunday congratulated New Zealand on becoming the first country in the world to allow women to vote 125 years ago, and said that effort had paved the way for others around the world.

"Suffrage is not simply about the right to vote but also about what that represents," Meghan said. "The basic and fundamental human right of being able to participate in the choices for your future, and for your community."

Meghan and her husband, Prince Harry, are on the final leg of their 16-day tour of the South Pacific, which has taken in four countries.

Meghan, who describes herself as a feminist, was speaking to a group of mainly women guests in Wellington that included Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Meghan got a big cheer when she opened her speech with a greeting in indigenous Maori.

The function was designed to celebrate the suffrage anniversary, and Dame Patsy Reddy also got a cheer when she pointed out that she was the nation's third female governor general and Arden was the third female prime minister. The event was delayed after a fire alarm, believed to have been triggered by an atomizer spreading air freshener in a bathroom, forced guests to briefly evacuate the building.

Earlier, the couple was greeted with an indigenous Maori welcome.

Harry and Meghan each performed a "hongi" with Maori elders, in which they pressed noses together to share a breath. They were welcomed with traditional haka performances and a 21-gun salute at Government House in Wellington, New Zealand's capital.

The couple are scheduled to spend four days in New Zealand, where they will go for a trail walk in a national park, meet young people training to be part of the film industry and visit a hatchery for the national bird, the kiwi.

At Government House, a group of children got to meet the royal couple. Minnie Newman, an 11-year-old from Kelburn Girl Guides, said she was impressed with Meghan.

"I love her dress and she was really pretty," Newman said. "She seems really nice and kind and would be good for royalty."

Greta Crowe, 11, said she told the couple that the best part of being a girl guide was getting to meet them. She said Harry responded, "What, waiting around at Government House in the cold?" and the couple both laughed.

Hundreds of people gathered outside barriers at the Pukeahu National War Memorial, hoping to catch a glimpse of the couple on their only public walkabout in the capital.

Harry and Meghan arrived on the same plane as a number of competitors returning from Sydney's Invictus Games, which Harry founded in 2014. The games give sick and injured military personnel and veterans the opportunity to compete in sports such as wheelchair basketball.

As well as Australia and New Zealand, the couple has also visited Fiji and Tonga on their tour.

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