#WomenCrushWednesday : Meleane Burgess

It’s amazing to see so many incredible women put their hands up and run for Hamilton City Council this year. This week we are speaking to second time runner Meleane Burgess, also known as an everyday accountant, founder of Waikato Pacific Business Network, Good Collective Board Director and a recipient for the Suffrage 125 Waikato Women - just to name a few. We spoke to Meleane about what her goals are for council, where she would like to see local politics in the future and what she has to say to women who don’t think voting is important.


Tell us about yourself!

My name is Meleane Burgess and I live in Hillcrest with my family. An alumn of the University of Waikato School of Management, I am an Accountant by profession and have held a number of governance roles both local and at a national level. I am the Director of Dynamic Advisory Limited and also the founder of the Waikato Pacific Business Network. I am a member of the Pacific Steering Group for the Ministry of Social Development and was also a former member of an advisory committee for the Ministry for Pacific Peoples. I am a Pacific Island woman of Samoan decent. I am currently on the board of directors for the Good Collective and board of trustees for Hillcrest High School. I was a recipient for the Suffrage 125 Waikato women in recognition of my services and contribution to the community. A devoted wife and mother of 3 and I love spending time with my family where I have instilled my values of hardwork, respect, integrity and leadership.

What made you want to run in the upcoming local election?

I was asked to stand in the 2018 by-election for the Hamilton East Ward where I narrowly missed out being 4th overall out of 15 candidates. I was determined then that, given the outcome and the support I received, I would give it one more go and here I am running again.

If you are voted into council what are your main goals?

I stand for a fair and balanced city council. I strongly believe that the current council does not represent the diversity of the people that live in Hamilton. I want Hamilton to continue to be affordable for all residents, family friendly and safe.

If I win this election, I will;
(1) listen to the people of Hamilton;
(2) work hard to achieve the best for the people that I represent;
(3) ensure sensible, well informed decisions are made and be held accountable for the decisions that I make.

Do you think being a woman will affect your campaign?

Not at all. Everyone has an equal opportunity of getting in. Some may have a better chance than others due to their name recognition, but that is part of local elections. A campaign should not be about gender, it should be about the value and the skills / capabilities that each candidate brings to the table that will add to effective decision making at a governance level for the Hamilton City Council.

Meleane Burgess.jpg

Where would you like to see local politics in 5 years?

In the next 5 years, there are a few things I would like to see for local politics:
(1) at least 80% participation in voter turnout;
(2) elections changing to a single transferable vote (STV)
(3) more diversity around the council table.

What would you say to women who dom’t think voting is important?

Voting is very important, it is your right and responsibility in shaping our local/national democracy. It is that vote that will put someone on the council table that will decide on what needs to happen in the city that we live in. If we ignore this process and don’t vote,then things will stay the same or get worse. When you vote, you will get new leaders that will listen to you, have new ideas, energy and share the same/similar values.

How can people learn more about your campaign?

They can follow me on my facebook page: Meleane Burgess for Hamilton City Council. They can also email me on meleaneburgess4Council@gmail.com or they can find me at one of my events at a community centre near you.

Among our normal #WomeanCrushWednesday posts, YWCA Hamilton will be running #WCW with local women that are running for Hamilton City Council, Mayor and Waikato Regional Councils. We want to support all women who are running in the local elections this year, as well as supporting women in the Waikato to vote for a representative that support them.

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#WomenCrushWednesday : Anna Smart

As the local elections approach we are seeing more and more incredible women pop up in campaigns to join the Hamilton City Council. One of these amazing women is Anna Smart, a local real estate agent and prominent volunteer and advocate in the Hamilton community. We asked Anna all about her campaign, and why young women should be getting more involved in politics.


Tell us about yourself? Who are you as a person?

I’m a local real estate agent where I work as part of a team with my husband Dave. We live in Queenwood and have three children, Sophie, Joey and Emmy.. we’ve also got two dogs and three cats so it’s a busy house hold! We love to spend time together as a family and get outside in the natural environment. What I love about Hamilton is that you don’t have to go far to get into a green space, some of our favourite spaces are Tauhara Park and Days Park. I’m a big fan of coffee and keep myself fit by working out at F45 which pushes me outside of my comfort zone on a daily basis!

What made you want to run in this local election?

I love this city and am passionate about its people.  In my work as a real estate agent we are in and out of people’s houses and see the direct impact of the decisions made by the local and central governments on a daily basis. Our city has a lot of change on the horizon and key decisions to make in terms of growth. I want to ensure that those decisions are made with the best interests of all our residents in mind, that we are strengthening our current communities while also building future communities with a holistic approach to wellbeing.

I have done a wide range of activities to give back to the community including volunteering at the Citizens Advice Bureau, being a founding member of the Rototuna Business Network and in the school community as deputy chair of the PTA at Te Totara Primary and now Board of Trustees member at Rototuna High Schools. It would be a privilege to be a voice for the community around the Council table.

On a personal level, the Women in Politics events held (including the one here at the YWCA) which helped support me to making the decision, and my business and children are at a stage where if I’m successful I can give the role of City Councillor the 110% effort the position deserves.

Having been so involved in the community, what changes will you make if you win?

When you are around the council table you are one voice of twelve so as an individual you don’t have the capacity to promise individual changes. What I do promise is to listen to the community that I represent and ensure their needs are vocally expressed around the table and heard as part of any decisions made. 

As I write this the first of three rates increases starts and all residents will be noticing the impact either through our rates or our rent. The Council has a responsibility to spend ratepayers money wisely, and with transparency around decision making.  

anna smart.jpg

Do you think it's important for more women to run in local elections? And why?

Every sector of the community needs a voice and at the moment we clearly don’t have a wide representation of the community in the current council. It’s about balance, and women bring a unique perspective to decision making process. We’re one half of the population, and I’d love to see 50/50 representation. What’s really great is that there are some strong, awesome women who have put their hands up this time around and it’s exciting to see. 

What is your message for young women who don't think of politics as a priority?

I’d say to those young women that what you have to say matters, that your voice matters and you have value to add to the conversation because your perspective is just as relevant. We all make the fabric of our community and the decisions made at local government level impact on all of us. I think there’s a perception that politics happens despite you, not because of you. I think there’s a perception that politics happens despite you, not because of you and that just isn’t true. There are ways to get involved (connecting with the YWCA is a great start!), and I’m free anytime for a coffee to catch up with anyone who wants someone to hear what they have to say and run ideas through.

How can people learn more about you and your campaign?

The best thing to do is get in touch and I’ll shout you a coffee! I’m very keen to hear from residents and chat with people and groups about their concerns and passions in this city. My website is annasmart.co.nzwith my contact details and you can connect with me on Facebook - facebook.com/annasmartforhamiltoncity and twitter @annasmartnz.

Supporting women in politics is important for YWCA Hamilton because we believe that there should be equality between genders everywhere within our community. We encourage you to keep an eye out for these #WomanCrushWednesday posts to see who is running in the Waikato as well as doing your own research for who is running in your ward. And if you can’t find someone to vote for who aligns with your values - maybe it’s time for you to enter politics.

#WomenCrushWednesday : Gemma Major

Seed Waikato has been hitting the Waikato by storm with amazing events, workshops and challenges for young people in every walk of life. We have been luck enough to partner in some of these events, support others, and watch Seed Waikato grow from, well, a seed to a living being force. We spoke to Seed Waikato Co-Creator and everyday super woman Gemma Major about life, inspiration, start ups and dreaming big.


Tell us about yourself!

Ko Maunganui te māunga
Ko Te Tai-o-Rehua te moana
Ko Boeing 747 te waka
Ko Rosalie Tasker rāua ko David Slack ōku tīpuna
Ko Ngāti Slack tōku hapū
Ko te whare karakia matua tōku marae
Nō Ahitereiria ahau Engari kei Aotearoa Kirikiriroa tōku kainga inaianei
Ko Sharleen raua ko Brendon ōku mātua
Ko Jesse tōku hoa rangatira
Ko Gemma tōku ingoa

My name is Gemma, and I love doing sparkly things with sparkly people. I adore my husband, and we have our first little human due at the end of August. I love turning ideas into reality, and supporting others to do the same. I studied a Bachelor of Management Studies (Hons) at the University of Waikato, and am passionate about the role young people can play in philanthropy, social enterprise and community-led development.

What makes you passionate about life?

My purpose. I'm deeply passionate about youth development, empowering a generation to overcome their challenges, and ignite positive change. 

If you could tell 13 year old you something that you've learnt what would it be?

Believe in yourself. Go and find out how to believe in yourself. Then learn how to believe in the hopes and dreams of the people around you. It's the most incredible experience to support your friends and Whaanau to believe in themselves in their pursuit of their dreams.


How was Seed Waikato born?

By listening. By asking questions. By falling in love with a problem. By finding like-valued people with different perspectives and strengths to mine.

We found out that young people in the Waikato wanted a place to belong. Have access to inspiring speakers, epic mentors and experiences that develop their potential. To know how to be resilient in the face of adversity. To feel empowered to turn their dreams into reality. To play a role in creating the future they want, making their voice heard. To challenge the status quo. So in late 2017, we launched our events, bringing together diverse young people to learn from speakers on topics like growth mindset, resilience, vulnerability and wellbeing.

In Hamilton City alone, 23% of the population is aged 18–30. I want every young person to know that they are enough, that they have the power to change stuff, and that together we can change the world. I’m seriously passionate about the potential of the millennial generation to transform the economy, society and our environment. We have significant challenges as a generation, as does any generation, and we have powerful possibilities and opportunities, thanks to generations before us who have carved a path.

On a more personal level, after surviving crippling bipolar and drug-induced psychosis, I realised that so many other young people are facing mental health and addiction challenges, clearly represented in the horrific fact that every 63 hours a young person takes their life here in Aotearoa. Learning tools to do life differently coupled with building a Whaanau that accepted and loved me empowered me to improve my wellbeing. And if I didn’t have exposure to opportunities and access to incredible leaders, I wouldn’t be here today doing what I’m doing.

Where do you see Seed Waikato in 5 years?

To have built meaningful relationships with organisations across the sector, becoming the glue for us to work together to drive significant change on issues we all care about. 

And to to have built the eco-system for young people to really thrive. We’re passionate about uplifting, inspiring and empowering young people to realise the possibilities and determine their future. From becoming great parents, to talented employees, impact-driven change-makers, passionate entrepreneurs, purpose-driven students, motivated volunteers, and confident leaders. 


What are some of the most important things you have learnt as a woman with a start up?

1 - A great leader doesn't have the answers. A great leader knows how to ask the right questions. This is something I try to commit to improving everyday with our team of 15 permanent volunteers.

2 - The importance of my inner self-talk and building self-awareness. I'm really hard on myself, and have a very strong work ethic. If I'm not careful, my inner-soccer mum becomes the loudest voice, saying things like:

"You could have done better" 
"What will you do differently next time?"
"How can you develop?" 
"How could the outcome be different?"
"What was your blind spot?"

These questions are really important in the pursuit of a growth mindset, but there also needs to be some space for the inner cheerleader, who says things like:

"Wow, what an incredible achievement."
"You have worked so hard. Take a break."
"Well done."
"I'm proud of you."
"You've come so far."
"Reflect on your wins and celebrate your progress."
"You've got this."

Learning how to identify and develop your inner-self talk will do wonders for your perception of reality, and your resilience! 

What advice would you give to other woman with such tall dreams?

Dream big, but start small. Heaps of people have great ideas. What will set you apart, is how you execute, or how you turn that idea into reality. The best piece of advice someone gave me is that if what you launch to the world is perfect, you waited too long. Let go of perfectionism, and find someone who can keep you accountable to making progress. 

Find mentors. Mentors are key. I chose to work in an organisation that had inspiring woman who were experts in their fields so that I could practically learn from them. And today, I choose to spend time seeking out advice from people who lead with a similar set of values to mine, who have executed well and who want to let the ladder down. Find your mentors. 

Find tools to turn your ideas into reality. Don't fall in love with your ideas, fall in love with the problem you want to solve. Design-thinking has been and incredible tool that we have used at Seed Waikato to test and validate ideas. Lean start-up, the learning processcommunity-led development and continuous improvement are others. 

Supporting women who are running, and succeeding, in creating their visions locally is something YWCA Hamilton is 100% behind.

Check out more about Seed Waikato on their website here or pop over to their social media here.

#WomenCrushWednesday : Louise Hutt

After our amazing ‘Voices of Women’ event with #PoliticsInTheTron, DV Bryant, Free FM, Go Eco and The Meteor and the following practical workshop for Electioneering Women held by Kelli Pike, we were hoping some women would emerge in our local politics. Luckily Louise Hutt stepped up to the plate. We chatted to her about politics, women and what her campaign is about.

Tell us about yourself!

My name is Louise Hutt and I'm 26-years -old. I'm currently the youngest CEO of an electricity company in New Zealand and a member of the governance board for GoEco - the Waikato's largest community organisation dedicated to sustainability. My main hobby at the moment is trying to keep my houseplants alive - but I also like to knit, play video games, and go tramping. I graduated yesterday with a Master's of Media and Creative Technologies, and this year I'm also running for Mayor and Hamilton West in our local body election. 


What made you want to run in the upcoming election?

I've always been frustrated at how little energy is put into making local body politics understandable for most people (but especially young people) and how few politicians actually center climate change or wellbeing in their decisions. It's outrageous to me that in a city of 160,000 people, you only need 8,000 votes to be mayor. Nearly half of our city is under 30, and we have no councilors under 30! Women make up more than half of our city, but we only make up 23% of council! People are unengaged, and it's because we need different people in politics - so here I am.

How do you think being a woman will affect your campaign?

Especially after the events in Christchurch, and with climate change on our horizon, I think we're starting to realise how the status quo of leadership isn't working. I hope that being a young woman candidate is met with encouragement and excitement, but having been an outspoken feminist on the internet for a long time, I wouldn't be surprised to see some hate either. If you want to support any women candidates who you see getting harassed online, I think the easiest thing you can do is to be vocal in your support and use those report buttons - let them know there are people who have their back and it won't be tolerated.

What do you think about women in politics here in NZ?

There are some amazing wāhine toa in politics in New Zealand but I would love to see more women involved who aren't career politicians. If you've been in politics a long time, and been paid what successful politicians are paid - it becomes harder to know the reality of inequality in New Zealand, and how much worse sexism is when it's paired with financial inequality. Marama Davidson is a huge hero of mine - I saw her speak on campus several years ago just after she'd entered parliament, and she spoke about how she she'd struggled to find a warm, dry, affordable home for her family only months before she became an MP - and that being a elected politicians shouldn't be the only way you can have a safe, healthy home to live in. She's the kind of person I want to see more of in politics.

What are your goals for this election?

I want more people, and especially young people, to understand local body government and how it effects us. I want to change the conversation - I want to talk about climate change and wellbeing and how we make a city that everyone can thrive in. I want to be an example, I want people to say "Well Louise ran for Mayor, so why can't I?". But most of all, I want people to see a leader they can believe in - who will be courageous and do the right thing because we can't afford to do nothing anymore.

Louise Hutt.jpg

What would you do if you were elected?

We know that climate change is going to cause flooding and temperature rises for Hamilton, so we need to look at our drainage and storm water infrastructure to mitigate more floods and we need to make sure our roads and buildings are going to withstand being hotter, and hotter for longer too. We also need to think about how we can be lowering our council's carbon emissions - climate change is something we're contributing to and making worse. I also want to see us be more honest about who our city is helping and who they aren't - what is "affordable" housing if nearly 40% of people over the age of 15 in Hamilton earns $20,000 or less a year, but the median house price is $500,000? I could go on but you can read more at https://mayor.louisehutt.com/#vision 

Where would you like to see women in politics in 5 years?

I'd like to see more women making decisions in our local and central government! But especially more LGBTI women, wāhine Māori and women from ethnic minorities, women with disabilities - women who aren't currently represented and who should be.

How can people support you in your campaign?

You can join our volunteer mailing list, or donate any spare change you might have over at https://mayor.louisehutt.com/#support but the easiest thing you can do is make sure you're enrolled to vote, and check with all your whānau if they're enrolled too - and best of all, it's free and you can do it online at https://www.elections.org.nz/voters/enrol-check-or-update-now

What's something you want to tell women who might be afraid to get into politics?

It's totally normal to be hesitant or nervous about thinking of entering politics, but if you have people around you who know their stuff and are willing to support you - you'll be okay. With my team at work, we always talk about staying humble and being curious - so being humble because no one person has all the answers, but if we're curious about what everyone else can bring to the table, we can figure it out together. I think politics is the same - don't try to do everything on your own, put together a team you believe in, and you'll be amazed at what you can achieve.

Supporting out local women to get into politics is so important in ensuring that women have a equal future in politics. We are proud to see our local women stepping up and making the word their oyster!

Check out Louise’s campaign website here or pop over to her social media here.

#WomenCrushWednesday : Rosalie Norton

YWCA Hamiltona and Shama hosted an Ignite Weekend Retreat earlier this year. It was here YWCA Programmes Coordinator Zeta Mohn got to meet an amazing group of young women including Rosalie Norton - an incredible young woman with a better vision for living.

On the 1st of March, YWCA and Shama came together to take a group of young women away for a diverse bonding weekend. Among those young women was Rosalie Norton; teen lifestyle blogger, foodie, big sister and entertainer. Rosalie is an amazing young women who is always striving to live her most authentic life, taking part in community events and supporting other young people through her blog Just Me Rosalie.


Tell us a little about who you are!

My name is Rosalie Norton and I am 14 years old. I am a New Zealander of Pasific island descent. I live with my mum and 12 year old sister and I am a year 10 at high school. I started blog writing when was 12.

What inspired you to create your blog?

I was inspired to create my blog because I realized that things I was interested in might help other young teens around NZ. Writing had always been a hobby of mine, so blog writing was also another way to express myself.

What does living authentically mean to you?

As teens we are still finding who we are, so sometimes it's hard to just be yourself. We tend to do things that aren't so comfortable because we think it will help us fit in. So to me living a true authentic life means that you are always true to yourself and what you believe. You live life to the fullest and always put your best self forward.


What do kindness, confidence and bravery look like to you?

Being kind is being a helping hand and respecting your peers thoughts and feelings.

Being confident is staying strong through tough times and standing up for what you think is right.

Being brave is stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things that you know you might not be good at.

How have you overcome the normal fears that people have and gone public?

A big part of it was having to get over the fact that not everyone will like what I have to say. You have to focus on the ones who you want to help and the people who care and want listen, rather than the ones who don't.

If you could give one piece of advice to all women what would it be?

Never lose sight of who you are because you are beautiful, strong and worth listening to no matter you age, race or appearance. You be you, because you can change the world.

Check out Rosalie’s blog about her Ignite Retreat experience here.
Give her a follow on Instagram here.

#WomenCrushWednesday : Jessica Emily Quinn

In early February, Hamilton YWCA Programmes Coordinator Zeta Mohn attended a ChangeMakers event by Untapped with Briony and got to meet and chat with Jess Quinn who shared her amazing story of survival and empowerment.

After facing huge adversity losing her leg to cancer at 9, Jess has created the Transparency around Retouching Photographs of Models petition, an online petition asking that the government make it illegal for media companies to post retouched photos without stating they are retouched.

Jess believes that by making embedding this into law we can combat unrealistic body image ideals in advertising and the media, and it will inspire brands to question how they promote their products and services and what effect this might have on the people they are targeting.

The Transparency around Retouching Photographs of Models petition is currently at 6000+ signatures but more are needed to make a true difference.

We were lucky enough to keep in contact with Jess and speak to her about who she is, what inspires her and how she wants to make change in the world.

How did you come up with the idea of the Transparency around Retouching Photographs of Models petition?

I had an image of mine photoshopped which opened my eyes to the fact that image retouching is still going on. For me, I am all about encouraging people to be comfortable in their own skin, to celebrate their diversity & differences so to have images in the media portraying people with this false “perfection” shows unrealistic standards of beauty. I wanted to put my foot down. When I did an interview on the conversation I said that people should have to disclose it

What is your Y behind this petition and the other amazing stuff you do?

Growing up I felt different, for obvious reasons. Once I got a bit older I realised that I wasn’t the only one that grew up feeling “different” and that “different” was all around me. This "normality" that we’ve been taught to believe is “beauty” isn’t actually the norm and often doesn’t exist. It’s a curated version of what a brand or publication wants you to believe. Once I realised this I made a conscious decision that I didn’t want to let young people grow up feeling that their differences were abnormal. Our differences make us beautiful, they make us unique, they are our stories and our stories, and who we are as people, are what should be celebrated. So this became my why and I want to spend the rest of my life helping change this space. 

Where do you want to see advertisements in the media in 5 years and what developments do you think should be made before then?

I want to see all people represented, I want less focus on how we should look and more focus on who we are as people and what we can achieve. There are some amazing things coming at the moment celebrating people’s strengths. I believe storytelling is an incredible way to sell products. How do we want our consumer to feel when they are using/wearing a product? Themselves, happy, accepted, proud? Not, inadequate.

There really are some incredible changes happening, brands like Aerie celebrating diversity, Nike using campaigns to celebrate people’s abilities and successes, MissFQ using covers that haven’t been retouched. The world is changing and I can’t wait to see where it keeps going. The best thing people can do is decide what they want to allow, both as a brand and a consumer. 


What is your favourite part of your role?

The best part is that I get to speak from my heart, I get to spend my days using my story and the things I have learnt to help others, the messages and comments I get on the daily make every part of it so worthwhile. I feel so honoured to be able to use my platform to be a voice for change. There’s not much I don’t enjoy but I do feel a huge responsibility to be cautious about how I word things and what I put out into the world because young people in particular can be so easily influenced by the people they look up to. I’m also educating myself while I try educate others but it’s easy for people to think you have all the answers once you start getting louder and louder with your message but I try be clear that I am also learning while doing and I think that’s ok. We don’t all have the answers and solutions but together we can find them.

What is the best piece of advice you could give to women out there?

Be yourself. I know that’s so simple but that’s the point. In a world full of noise around who you should and shouldn’t be, the best thing you can be is yourself and go after whatever it is that sets you heart on fire. If you meet some turbulence along the way, which you will, take the lesson and continue. Life is far too short to hold ourselves back due to adversity. And never forget to lift other people up, we are all in this together and the best thing we can do is to support each other. 

What would you go back and tell the 13-year-old you now?

Nothing. I think I’d leave her to figure it all out. I know that sounds silly but every bout of turbulence my life has presented me with has gotten me where I am today. I think I’d just say, “Little Jess, you’ve got this”. 

What do you think we need to do as women to support each other more?

Just be kind. I think while we are on this global journey of self-love we need to rid the mean girl concept. Every single human is fighting a battle we know nothing about, the best thing we can do is be kind to one another. To encourage the good you see in others and to call out when someone is causing harm. And remember, you don’t need to have a “following” to influence change, we are all influencers, and we are all change makers. 

 You can hear sign Jess’s petition here.

You can hear more about her journey and work here.

YWCA + Shama Ignite Retreat

Earlier this month YWCA Hamilton and Shama came together to run the Ignite Retreat for young women in the Waikato. This is how it went.

The YWCA of Hamilton and Shama have been collaborating for Ignite for years to bring a diverse range of young women together to up skill their life skills. At the beginning of March 2019, we came together and took it up a notch by developing the first-ever Ignite Retreat. This was a weekend away for young women 14-17 years of age with the aim of building self-confidence and teamwork skills.


The weekend was held at First Step Outdoors and run by the incredible instructor Kate Parr. The girls were able to test their skills at rock climbing, abseiling, flying fox and caving. For many, this was their first time attempting these activities, like Rana, one of the participants said: "I actually feel like I’m more physically, like before didn’t know I could do stuff like that but ... I consider myself pretty good now, and yeah, I feel more confident.”


We were also lucky enough to have Jodie, formally from WILSS (Waikato Institute for Leisure and Sport Studies) come in and do a healthy cooking class with the young women. Basing the cooking class around healthier alternatives, Jodie was able to teach the girls that what's good for your insides can taste delicious and be quite simple to make.

Over the weekend the girls were forced to learn tolerance of each other's habits and also how to trust each other and they all came out with new friends. Rosalie, another participant, said “I really liked being able to meet new people … I normally just stick on the side but I was just able to communicate with other people and actually make friends.”


Sharing this experience with these young women and watching the bonds created between them cross all boundaries including culture, age and background was truly heartwarming. These girls were faced with challenges that some had never been faced with and they banded together to help each other achieve their personal goals and make it through. I am so proud of our girls and cannot wait for the next retreat - watch this space!

Zeta Mohn, YWCA Hamilton Programmes Coordinator

#WomenCrushWednesday : Kiwi Birth Tales Founder Jordyn Gregory

Passionate young kiwi Jordyn Gregory is smashing her goals while forming a community of support for new mum and dads. At just 25 she has created a podcast Kiwi Birth Tales with huge followings around New Zealand. I chatted with Jordyn about her life, passion, journey creating Kiwi Birth Tales and her latest Podcast (featuring local Hamilton mum Caitlin).


First could you tell us a little about yourself?

I grew up in Tauranga and studied a Bachelor of Management Studies through Waikato Uni when I left school, when I was 22 when I moved for Brisbane for a Graduate HR role, after that year they promoted me to a role in Sydney so I made the move there. I then progressed into a Human Resources Business Partnering role supporting 500 team members across a support functions team (Australia wide). I love my job and have always been so career driven / focussed, but mid last year my Partner Joe got offered a contract in Italy playing Water polo so we decided to leave Sydney and move here for the season (I had never been to Europe before). We are living in Recco, Italy - a small town of 10,000 people by the beautiful sea. I am freelancing on different HR projects as well as contracting for my previous role, my work have been so supportive of me doing this which is incredible! I plan to go back there after the season and we see ourselves back in Tauranga in the future. 

What is Kiwi Birth Tales?

Kiwi Birth Tales is a Platform for Kiwi Mums and Dads to share their pregnancy and birth journeys, to support and empower one another. I have a Website and Instagram to support the Podcast which is coming up 20,000 listens in just a few short months. 

How did you come up for the idea?

I have always been curious about pregnancy and birth, I had considered studying to be a Midwife when I left school but decided I wanted some more life experience first. I loved listening to other birth story podcasts and YouTube videos and when my friends started having babies I realised there was nothing similar in New Zealand and a real lack of resources online. 

What is your Y (purpose) behind Kiwi Birth Tales? (Why is it important for others?)

I want Kiwi Mums and Dads to feel empowered in making decisions about their pregnancies and births, I want to create a community where families can share and learn with one another and never feel isolated or alone. It is important to me that we normalise birth and talking about the reality of birth in New Zealand. 

Where do you want to see Kiwi Birth Tales in 5 years?

I want to see Kiwi Birth Tales continue to grow and gain awareness through sharing unique experiences of NZ pregnancy and birth. It is my goal to create a Platform that becomes an extremely valuable resources to families when they are preparing for pregnancy and birth and in 5 years I hope the platform is a go-to recommendation from friends and family to all pregnant women / families. 

What is your most favourite and least favourite part of your role?

My favourite part about being the host of KBT is hearing each story, enjoying the differences and feeling so privileged that these families are willing to share their experiences with me. My least favourite part is having too many emails in my inbox and not enough time to interview everyone all at once. I am currently booked until the end of April and have so many Women waiting to share their stories - I wish I had the means to put my time into it on a Full Time basis. 

Jordan Gregory Kiwi Birth Tales

What is the best piece of advice you could give to women out there?

You're experience is never isolated and if you are feeling lost reach out to a community, search for an online platform or resource you can use to connect. 

What do you think we need to do as women to support each other more?

I could go on for days with the answer! To put it simply I think we need to care about each other like we would our own loved ones - a kind message or comment can change how someone feels about their day or their week, just like a negative one can. I think we should be building one another up and sharing our experiences as much as possible, strong women support other women. 

Please tell us a little about your latest podcast: Caitlin, Kyrie & Kemba.

Caitlin’s episode is so beautiful, she is an incredible woman and I am so grateful she took the time to talk with me. Caitlin discusses the birth of her first daughter Kyrie, and then falling pregnant and losing her baby boy at 38 weeks. Caitlin talks about finding support in her partner and family and wanted to share her experience to help others who may have been through or are going through something similar. I am in awe of Caitlin and think she is such a brave and compassionate Kiwi Mum. 

To listen to the Kiwi Birth Tales latest podcast on local mum Caitlin, head over to @kiwibirthtales on Instagram (link in bio), or the website.

TW: Caitlin, Kyrie & Kemba covers birth, loss, grief and support mechanisms. If these are triggers for you please take precautions when listening in or avoid.

If you are interested in getting involved with Kiwi Birth Stories please message Jordyn on her Instagram or email kiwibirthtales@gmail.com top submit your story.

Jahvaya Wheki: Life since Outward Bound

Jahvaya Wheki was one of our Outward Bound Scholarship Recipients in 2017, turned Programmes Assistant at YWCA Hamilton. She talks about how her Outward Bound experienced kicked off a journey she never expected…

Since Outward Bound I have been embarking on the journey that you call life. Although it’s been difficult nothing to me has even been as hard and challenging as Outward Bound. Applying for the scholarship to attend Outward Bound was a leap of faith and I knew I wasn’t loosing anything by applying.

Since that time the YWCA has played a key part in my development and to where I am today. I am currently in Colombia, Medellin a part of an internship here in a company called COMFAMA, a non profit organisation that caters to the needs of the people here. I am here for 3 months and am working in the travel department as part of my degree studying tourism and Spanish and I get to travel to amazing parks here and create a purposeful beneficial journey for people around the city. I love my job here and I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without ywca. Last year I was having a gap year and learning more about the real world. The YWCA has supported me in many ways, supplying me with work and allowing me to be involved with holiday and after school care programs.


One day I was working at the University campaigning for the YWCA where being involved with many conversations I was encouraged to enroll in university. The YWCA was super supportive of me and even encouraged me while I was working there to go and enroll! Although it was last minute 3 days later I was attending university. Through this time there were many opportunities and applying for a scholarship to attend this internship seemed like a dream. But I took a leap of faith and applied. I thought well it’s ok if I don’t get it, I’m not losing anything. Finding out i got accepted was a very emotional heart felt moment where I knew I would face a new challenge and be fully immersed in a different culture facing many trials but growing in independence and confident to learn more about the world and learn more about myself. 

Grabbing opportunities as they come is very important and contributes to a person’s success! From my experience and personal development I am extremely grateful for the role the YWCA has played in who I am today and it’s because of them and making the most of opportunities as they come that I am where I am today.

Sometimes opportunities don’t present themselves easily that’s when it takes time and effort to search for them and make your own!  

You can read Jahvaya’s original Outward Bound blog post
here. To find out more about our Outward Bound scholarships head to www.ywca.org.nz/outwardbound.

#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.

Want to support the movement? Donate today!

Hamilton YWCA & Women's Refuge Christmas Drive

Words by Zeta, YWCA Hamilton

DECEMBER IS HERE! And we want you to get in the holiday spirit!

Inspired by the Waikato Women's Fund's Suffrage Event in November we are extending our annual food drive to include sanitary items.

It’s estimated that hundreds of women are affected by period poverty every year because they simply can’t afford the increasingly high price of sanitary products.

We will be open from 8.30am-3pm every weekday leading up to Thursday Dec 20th, collecting food and sanitary items for Waikato Women's Refuge - please get involved and help out our local women!

125 Years of Women’s Suffrage 

On the 19th September, YWCA of Hamilton, National Council of Women Hamilton and Zonta threw an event to celebrate a magnificent milestone of 125 years of women’s suffrage.

Words by Jaime Macfie, YWCA Hamilton

Imagine yourself, 125 years ago, with no voice for anything political. Imagine you are one of more than 30,000 women banding together, writing appeals, signing petitions, doing everything they can to advocate for the women of New Zealand to have a say.  

On the 19th September 1893, New Zealand was the first country in the world where women could vote in parliamentary elections. This was a ground-breaking moment, not only for women in NZ, but it inspired suffrage movements for women all over the world.   

New Zealand suffragists

New Zealand suffragists

In the lead up to this, there were 32,000 women who signed the largest petition ever to be presented to parliament (270 metres long). The Legislative council, followed a few days later by the Governor, passed and consented the bill and The Electoral Act 1893 was created. This act gave women in New Zealand the right to vote and they would get their first chance at this on 28th November 1893.   

So you may be asking, “What is suffrage day? And why should we, and do we, celebrate it every year?

Suffrage day is an opportunity to not only commemorate, but also further develop the chance to gain equality. We should celebrate suffrage day to not only remember how far we have come as a country, but to continue to find ways to make further progress that benefits our women.  

Suffrage day reminds us that not only is it important to vote, it is important that women continue voting today and in the future. In the 2011 general election, more than 80% of women voted, compared to approximately 77% of men. Although this statistic is from a couple of elections ago, we can see the shift and affect that women’s suffrage has had over the years.

women’s suffrage petition

women’s suffrage petition

We can even see the impact that women’s suffrage has had on the members of parliament, and the working-women. In 1893, the percentage of women in parliament was 0%, and the percentage of working women was 26%. In 2013, the percentage of women in parliament was 34%, and the percentage of working women was 58%. Fast forward to the 2017/18 and there are 120 members of parliament, 38% of which are women. This is the highest percentage New Zealand has had since women have been allowed to stand for parliament in 1919. 75% of the Green Party are women, and 46% of the Labour Party are women. (Women leaders? Jacinda, Helen and Judy)

Slowly, but surely, women are making a place for themselves within parliament. Not only are they doing this by being involved in different parties, but also there are more and more women holding some significant positions within the New Zealand parliament. This currently includes Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy, Deputy Speaker Anne Tolley, Assistant Speaker, Poto Williams, and our third female Prime Minister - Jacinda Ardern.

One of the most well-known and influential individuals who was involved with the suffrage movement is Kate Sheppard. She argued, “We are tired of having a “sphere” doled out to us, and of being told that anything outside that sphere is “unwomanly””.  Throughout her time fighting for this right for women, she had some brutal opposition. Male writers were recommending women to go home, be with their families, cook meals, and to attend to the domestic affairs for which “nature designed for them”. 

She co-founded the National Council of Women (NCW) and was the organisation’s first president. 

Kate Sheppard’s legacy and influence remain greater than ever, and she is still thought of today as being the driving force behind the women’s suffrage movement.  In 1991, Kate Sheppard was put onto the NZ $10 note. On the left hand side in the background, we can see a white camellia flower. These flowers were given out to the members of parliament who supported the suffrage bill when it first passed, and now these flowers have become the symbol of the fight for women’s suffrage.

Kate sheppard portrayed on the New Zealand ten dollar note

Kate sheppard portrayed on the New Zealand ten dollar note


On the 19th September 2018, The YWCA of Hamilton, NCW Hamilton Branch and Zonta put on an event to celebrate a magnificent milestone of 125 years of women’s suffrage. This event showed us the continuing support that has been going on for women in our community over the many years. 

There were three speakers on the day who all talked about how we can support women in our community, and how we need to get more women involved in politics, and why it is important for women to vote. It was great to see so many people attend the event, both men and women, and I hope everyone went home with new information to share. I know I did!

YWCA Hamilton Board

The women before us have all worked so hard to get us to where we are today. Let’s continue the fight, and keep showing our communities that our say is important, and does matter. We have come so far in 125 years, and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for women.

- Jaime Macfie

You can see more images from the event over at Hamilton YWCA’s Facebook page, or find out more about YWCA Hamilton and the incredible work they do here.


Want to support the movement? Donate today!

#EMPOWERED at Waikato O Week

Words by Riikka Anderson, YWCA of Hamilton

Hamilton YWCA O Week

Hamilton YWCA O Week

This year for the first time, the YWCA of Hamilton is expanding our programmes and workshops to students at the University of Waikato. We will be running one-off workshops once a month at the halls of residence on variety of subjects ranging from practical life skills to self-defence, from healthy cooking on a budget to Money Savvy and mental health.


To start this journey we were present at the TGIF Party at the O Week on Friday 23rd February. Our aim was to increase the students’ awareness of who we are and what we do. As a part of this promotion we ran several competitions: two on the day and two online. The (not so) Mini Prize was drawn from among those who gave us their email addresses. Thanks to this competition we now have over 150 emails for UoW female students! 


The two competitions on Facebook and Instagram are still running. To participate, students need to like our Facebook page or follow our Instagram account and tag someone who has #EMPOWERED them.

It was great (and very hot) day at the Village Green! It was awesome to meet so many young women and talk to them about issues we all face as women. We will definitely go back next year and look forward to seeing more of those who will join us this year!

If you are based in the Waikato and interested in getting involved, check out the YWCA Hamilton info page