#WomenYouShouldKnow: Irene Wakefield

Since her well received TEDxWellington talk in 2017, Irene Wakefield has been sharing her story and bringing light to the often invisible issue of emotional abuse.

At age 15, having experienced an abusive relationship first-hand, Irene decided to launch Prepair NZ, an online resource teaching young women that emotional abuse IS abuse, how to identity the early stages of abuse in a relationship, learn self-love, and know what to do when experiencing or witnessing an abusive relationship.

Irene believes that putting language around the less obvious, insidious types of abuse in relationships (for example Everything You Need To Know About Gaslighting), helps victims to identify it, understand it and feel more empowered to speak out against it.

Prepair NZ has taken to stages nationwide, as well as running workshops and talks in schools, universities and workplaces, and even partnered with Glassons on a t-shirt range. The Prepair website discusses a range of topics like the common warning signs of an emotionally abusive relationship, real life experiences, and resources for those seeking help.

We were lucky enough to speak to Irene about her journey. Irene calls Prepair NZ an ‘older sister’ but her wisdom is more like that of a wise grandmother - well beyond her years.

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You talk about the importance of having “uncomfortable conversations”. Why do you think is this is so important in creating social change?

I think the power of social change lies within the realms of allowing my truth to be heard while also being open to listening to and respecting yours. When you do this well, you create space for someone to listen, learn and feel valued. 

An uncomfortable conversation exposes our self-perceived downfalls. We speak at the risk of not being understood. We may even find ourselves not being able to see eye to eye or agree. The purpose of an uncomfortable conversation should be, to be seen, heard and most importantly to listen. If your goal is to be correct or make another person wrong, you have the perfect recipe for disconnection, or worse, war. 

We've all heard Brene talk about how vulnerability is the birthplace of courage and creativity. I also believe vulnerability or an uncomfortable conversation is the birthplace of enlightenment and learning. If we all opened ourselves up to learning we would progress far more effectively, with a lot less noise. 

What has been (or is) the biggest challenge you have encountered on your journey?

I live in a world that encourages me to boil myself, my work and my beliefs down in to checkboxes and 1080px squares. I'm currently working through a process of unsubscribing from this mentality. For example I recently deleted my personal Instagram because it actually does nothing to serve me. Or, when someone asks me what I do, I tell them that I don't fit into a traditional job title - I am Irene. 

At heart I am a non-conformist and I really value originality. I don't enjoy buying into trends and popularity and I am actively choosing not to. This feels really good for me however it can make cutting through a noisy digital world challenging. I've subscribed to the long game with Prepair and with that comes the need for patience and perseverance which is tough some days. 

And the most rewarding part?

There is so much more depth to Prepair NZ than the internet allows you to see. Behind the scenes you can find me working one-to-one or in workshops with groups of young women who are given labels like 'high-risk' or 'disadvantaged.' These labels really annoy me because they do not do justice to the incredibly talented women I sit face to face with. I am 'on-purpose' when I work in this space. 

When I provide language for a behaviour a young woman intuitively knew was wrong but could not describe, I see the shift in her spirit. When I sit down with a young māmā to help her create an exit plan from an abusive relationship I feel the shift in her self-belief. When I am honest enough to tell a room that leaving an abusive relationship is not easy and there is not quick fix, I facilitate another step in the self-love journey. These are the most rewarding moments of Prepair. 

Irene Wakefield Prepair NZ

As you discuss in your talks, self-love is a crucial part of healthy relationships, yet it’s often something people simply don’t know how to do. What would you suggest as a good starting place for learning self-love?

Self-love has become trendy. It's a buzz word that is used to sell everything from workshops to fitness wear. To me, real self-love requires you to truly get to know your most authentic self. It is a journey that happens internally more than externally. Yes, it feels good to have a bubble bath or get your nails done, but this is not a practice that will sustain you when there are tough decisions to be made.

The first thing to do is learn about yourself beyond a surface level. What do you value most in life? When are you most aligned with your values? Are there people in your life that sway you away from living in alignment with your values? Who are the people that encourage you to live in alignment with your values. I would encourage anyone wanting to follow this process to check out the values worksheet on the Prepair NZ website.

When you understand yourself at a deeper level it's much easier to make decisions that go against the grain. The decision could be about leaving an abusive relationship or quitting your job to start a business. Having your values in tact mean that you can make the best choice for you without being swayed by the noise of the world. Your values serve as an adamant and unshakeable foundation upon which you can build you life.

If you could give one piece of advice to readers, what would it be?

Learn to do things by yourself, for yourself. When you can be comfortable in your own company, you can find comfort and confidence in going against the grain amongst a crowd. You will not always have someone there to back you or affirm you in life. You have to learn to do that for yourself. The first step is being comfortable with and trusting yourself and only you can lead that lesson. 

Whats making you excited about the future?

My team and I worked really hard last year to better understand our audience through multiple research projects. It's taught me so much about the value of my work and also the areas I choose not to play in. I'm excited to enter into 2019 with so much more clarity about the direction of Prepair. 

You can hear Irene’s story and more about her work at PrepairNZ.com, check out her videos on Prepair’s IGTV profile and watch her talks below.


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#WomenYouShouldKnow: YWCA Legends Anne and Carole

This year two members of our whānau reached their twenty year tenure with the YWCA Aotearoa. I had a chat with Carole, manager of YWCA Whangarei and Anne, manager of YWCA Hamilton, both whom have become well respected and integral members of their local communities, to find out about the highs and lows of their two decades with us.

 
Carole, manager - YWCA Whangarei and Anne, manager - YWCA hamilton

Carole, manager - YWCA Whangarei and Anne, manager - YWCA hamilton

 

What has been the best thing about working with the Y?

Carole: The People- From those I work with, alongside side, meet, network with, support and assist. I spend a great deal of my time/life at the ‘Y’ so that’s important to me. Love the YWCA Purpose.

Anne: The ever-changing variety of work and personal contact which comes from being a small part of a national and international YWCA movement making a difference for women and families.

What has been (or is) the biggest challenge you have encountered in your journey?

Carole: Accessing funding especially for the hostel. We wanted to add more rooms back in 2006 which would have been a huge asset then but even more so now, but funding the project was not possible without funding assistance. There is such a need for accommodation such as the YWCA hostel and emergency housing yet little funding for such an important and necessary aspect of people’s lives. It is an essential basic need. People need a place to sleep, rest and have personal space where they feel safe.

Anne: The upkeep of rundown old buildings has been one of my biggest ongoing challenges.

What are you the most proud of in your time working with the Y?

Carole: The workshops we have run and continue to run for young women to build self-esteem/positive body image. The YWCA Northland ‘Women of Distinction’ awards we held in 2010 to recognise and acknowledge women who had made a commitment and a significant difference in her community and/or the larger world, and whose achievements demonstrated vision, creativity and initiative, our stand against Violence-the White Ribbon and Say No to Violence events we have held and been part of.

Anne: Helping to organise the Pacific/Australasia YWCA RTI (Regional Training Institute) held at the now-defunct YWCA of Rotorua. Carole also attended this. Seven countries and the World YWCA President attended this RTI, held at Waiariki campus. Contributing to several young Hamilton/Waikato YWCA women's attendance at quadrennial World YWCA conferences held in locations ranging from Brisbane, Nairobi and Zurich; Pacific RTIs (Fiji); the World AIDS conference (Vienna) and UNCSW, New York.

Anne became a life member of hamilton ywca in November

Anne became a life member of hamilton ywca in November

We’ve all fought and won battles at all stages of our life so far and can learn from and listen to each other’s challenges and how to overcome them.

So much has changed in time you’ve been working at the Y and in the women’s movement, especially in the last couple of years with the groundswell of #metoo and the changing political landscape for gender equality. What are you hoping to see in the next few years for the women’s movement?

Carole: Personally I would like to see a decrease in family violence and substance abuse.

Anne: I'd like to see intergenerational women progressing forward together, expressing a variety of views and opinions. We've all fought and won battles at all stages of our life so far and can learn from and listen to each other's challenges and how to overcome them.

If you could give one piece of advice to yourself when you started at the Y, what would it be?

Carole: Three things: never assume, your voice matters, you can learn something from everyone.

Anne: Quickly learn how to prepare successful funding applications (and how to move on from the declined applications!). Build long-term, authentic relationships.


Carole and Anne, we thank you for your wisdom and the amazing work you have contributed in your two decades of service. We’re excited to see what comes next for you both.

You can learn more about the work they are doing on over at the Whangarei and Hamilton pages.


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#WomenYouShouldKnow: YWCA Ambassador Maisy Bentley

YWCA aotearoa AMbassador Maisy bentley

YWCA aotearoa AMbassador Maisy bentley

Maisy Bentley is a woman to watch. Her list of achievements is impressive for anyone, let alone someone at the young age of 19.

You might recognise Maisy from her 2016 feminist TEDx talk, “Don’t Ask for Permission”. Or for being named Most Inspirational Young Person of the year at the New Zealand Parliamentary Pride awards 2016. Or as the NZ Youth Awards 2018 recipient of the Outstanding Youth Champion award. Or as a Miss FQ Influencer awards 'Up and Comer’ 2018 finalist. Seriously, the list goes on.

Somehow she manages to pack all this in with work, study, freelance writing, speaking at events, and being a dedicated advocate for youth, gender equality and fighting mental health stigma. Maisy is the definition of a life lived with purpose.

Maisy is currently in her second year at Vic, studying international development and a bachelor of laws. She is working at Inspiring Stories, a nation-wide not for profit empowering young people to unleash their potential, from entrepreneurial incubator programs to working with hundreds of young people in rural New Zealand to address issues in their community.

She is a volunteer for UN Youth, supporting young people to gain skills and knowledge to become informed, engaged, and critical New Zealanders who can become global citizens.

She’s also a freelance writer for Awa Wahine and the Commonwealth Secretariat, writing both creatively and about current affairs in Wellington, and contributor to YWCA sister site, The She Hive.

I had a chat with Maisy about what drives her, and what makes her excited for the future.

What have been some highlights of working in the advocacy space?

My work in the not for profit and advocacy space has allowed me some pretty cool opportunities including working with one of NZ largest retailers Glassons to get Prepair NZ’s charity t-shirts into nearly every store in the country and travelling on the UN Youth Global Development Tour which included meeting with Helen Clarke at the United Nations Development Programme and bringing the voice of kiwi rangitahi to the UN and the youth action planner on sustainable development goals.

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What does feminism mean to you?

To me, feminism means making the world a better place by allowing all people to participate. That means everyone can do whatever they set their mind to. To do this, it is not enough to create equal opportunities but we need equity. We need to fix the gender pay gap, need to recognize the way gender shapes the opportunities that women might set their mind to or even consider open to them when it comes time to make those decisions.

I believe feminism a catalyst when done right to address a range of inequalities such as race and class, as it’s a universal issue that draws attention to these intersections.

To me feminism also means playing a role in addressing men’s rights issue to achieve equality. Issues such as mens suicide rates and social norms expected of men are often toxic masculinity. For example, that they can’t cry, talk about their feelings or exhibit feminine characteristics such as crying, or work in ‘traditional womens roles’ such as being a nurse, or home maker.

These are intrinsically linked to women's issues because feminity is seen as bad and when men are told /force not to be in these spaces it means women are forced to be in these spaces and only these spaces or because men are forced to be dominant and hard women must be submissive and soft.

In day to day life it means being aware of how the ideas of gender influence your actions and the way you think about yourself and others and their actions. It also means reflecting on how your comments and actions perpetuate these gender narratives.

What makes you excited for the future?

I’m excited for my generation to be in power. And I’m excited for the future generations who will continue to have positive partnerships with those in power. I’m excited to see a generation who have grown up in a world that is rapidly, dramatically and confusingly changing around them and not only embrace but harness that change for good, rather than try to stop or control it because the way things are currently might be benefiting them individually.

I’m excited to see the impact of the current critical numbers of women in senior positions. The number of women we have in parliament now and for example Jacinda being a working mother will have huge impacts on the perspectives bought to our policy and law making and shape what that looks like.

When women are in power the decision made tend to be ones that work for women and create many more doors. I can feel the glass ceiling being weakened now from both above it by the few very special talented women who have already got there and by those who are up and coming. It is a privilege to be in a generation that has people fighting form both sides.

I am excited to see a future where I hope the next wave of feminism is the ‘ally wave’ where men who recognize and understand these issues actively stand up and demand equality in the way women have no choice to do. We have already seen this in the ad in the New York Times for both Anita hill and Christine Blasey Ford, but I hope to see this trend continue. We can’t change the whole world when only 50% of people are working towards that.

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You can find out more about Maisy and her work by following her on Instagram and Twitter.


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#WomenYouShouldKnow: Meri Te Tai Mangakahia

Meri Te Tai Mangakāhia (1868–1920) Te Rarawa, Ngāti Te Teinga, Ngāti Manawa, Te Kaitutae.

Meri Te Tai Mangakāhia (1868–1920)
Te Rarawa, Ngāti Te Teinga, Ngāti Manawa, Te Kaitutae.

Meri Te Tai Mangakāhia was one of the first Maori suffragists, and now recognised as an unsung hero of Aotearoa's suffrage movement.

She was a prominent and influential Māori woman activist in the 1890s and was fiercely dedicated to the advancement of women’s rights.

Meri Te Tai wanted more than just the right to vote. She wanted women represented in Parliament to be part of the decision making process. 

She was involved in the establishment of Ngā Kōmiti Wāhine, iwi based women’s committees associated with Te Paremata, the Māori parliament. While Pākehā suffragists were focused largely on moral reform and temperance (restriction of alcohol) Ngā Kōmiti Wāhine were more concerned about the wellbeing of Māori culture and the negative effects of colonisation. Included in this was the loss of land and the lack of recognition of Māori women’s rights as the owners of land and resources.

Address to Kotahitanga Parliament

In 1893 Meri Te Tai became the first woman to personally address Kotahitanga Parliament. She presented a motion in favour of women being allowed to vote for, and stand as, members of the Parliament. 

Meri Te Tai's address to the Kotahitanga in 1983

English translation of Meri Te Tai's address to the Kotahitanga: 

"I exult the honourable members of this gathering. Greetings.

I move this motion before the principle member and all honourable members so that a law may emerge from this parliament allowing women to vote and women to be accepted as members of the parliament.

Following are my reasons for presenting this motion that women may receive the vote and that there be women members:

1. There are many women who have been widowed and own much land.

2. There are many women whose fathers have died and do not have brothers.

3. There are many women who are knowledgeable of the management of land where their husbands are not.

4. There are many women whose fathers are elderly, who are also knowledgeable of the management of land and own land.

5. There have been many male leaders who have petitioned the Queen concerning the many issues that affect us all, however, we have not yet been adequately compensated according to those petitions. Therefore I pray to this gathering that women members be appointed. Perhaps by this course of action we may be satisfied concerning the many issues affecting us and our land.

Perhaps the Queen may listen to the petitions if they are presented by her Māori sisters, since she is a woman as well." (source)

Post Suffrage Life

In 1893 all New Zealand women, Māori and Pākehā, won the right to vote. However, it wasn't until 1897 that Māori women won the right to vote in the Kotahitanga Parliamentary elections.   

Meri Te Tai Mangakāhia (1868–1920) Te Rarawa, Ngāti Te Teinga, Ngāti Manawa, Te Kaitutae.

Meri Te Tai Mangakāhia (1868–1920)
Te Rarawa, Ngāti Te Teinga, Ngāti Manawa, Te Kaitutae.

Meri Te Tai continued to be active in Māori politics.  In partnership with Niniwa i te Rangi of Wairarapa, she started a column called Te Reiri Karamu (‘The Ladies’ Column’) which was published in Te Tiupiri (The Jubilee). The column shows the engagement of Māori women in lively and intellectual discussion of women's issues. 

Meri Te Tai is remembered as a suffragist who pushed boundaries and inspired future generations of Māori women.

She died of influenza in 1920 and is buried at the Pureirei cemetery in Lower Waihou.

 

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