Celebrate the Y25 wāhine toa of 2021
A passionate intersectional environmentalist, Aimee believes the health of our ocean greatly affects the functioning of all life on our planet. She is a Young Ocean Leader with the Sustainable Ocean Alliance, represented New Zealand at the 2019 Our Ocean Youth Leadership Summit and launched the first Victoria Sustainability Week in 2019, alongside VUWSA and a team of other sustainability-related groups. With a background in Marine Biology, Environmental Studies and a strong belief in grassroots activism and community engagement, Aimee plans to launch the Yellow Submarine Project within the next two years. This will be a transportable laboratory and interactive classroom space servicing schools and communities with ocean literacy and environmental education in an empowering and accessible way.
Alice's lived experience with disability has made her aware of the huge disparities which exist in society, inspiring her to join the fight to make the change she wishes to see in the world. Studying a conjoint degree in Law and Arts at Victoria University, Alice is heavily involved in student politics and directed her passion into establishing the National Disabled Students’ Association in 2020. She was officially nominated as President in 2021. The Association represents disabled tauira at the tertiary level nationally to Government, disabled persons’ organisations, tertiary institutions, and other interested bodies. Not only is this bringing a disabled student perspective to the table, but it also adds diversity and youth to the thriving disabled movement already occurring. She has advocated for disability rights through writing with the Spinoff, Attitude TV, All is for All, and student mag Salient.
Breila (Ngāti Maru ki Hauraki, Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Raukawa) uses her voice and mātauranga to help address health inequities for Māori. A Māori Advisor in Te Tiriti o Waitangi team at Te Hiringa Hauora, she has previously held roles at Indigenous Design and Innovation Aotearoa (IDIA) and the Department of Corrections. Breila lives in Wellington with her 5-year-old son and as a 'teen mum', having had her son at age 17, she knew she didn't want this 'label' to define her. Breila finished college, gained a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Criminology, minoring in sociology from Victoria University. As one of the youngest employees at Te Hiringa Hauora, Breila pushes against the unconscious bias of her culture, age and gender – advising on a range of portfolios including Mental Health, Immunisation, Smoking Cessation, and Minimising Gambling Harm.
A strong Tama'ita'i Samoan, Brianna speaks up for her island and fights on the frontline of climate change. Her work has been shown nationally and internationally. At age 11, Brianna became one of the founding members of 350. Samoa and leader of environmental group Future Rush. Since then she’s travelled extensively as a Pacific Youth Ambassador, attending UNEP in Korea & Japan, the Rio+Summit, COP23 where she gave a keynote address and toured Europe sharing stories of the Pacific and the importance of climate action with church groups & schools. She attended COP25 High-Level Plenary Session on “Climate Emergency” in 2019 alongside Greta Thunberg. At 16, Brianna became the youngest winner of the Commonwealth Youth Award, meeting with the Queen to discuss her environmental efforts in the region.
Brooke is more than interested in food. Her head is nonstop brimming with culinary thoughts: new flavour pairings, food sculptures, multisensory dining concepts. Playing with ingredients, textures, colours and flavours is an art form for Brooke. As the CEO and sole trader of two successful businesses: Wrapt and Sugar Bunny, Brooke understands the importance of sustainable practices. Wrapt is an edible bio-packaging and the philosophy behind it is to make creative use of nature’s toolbox - using nature to protect our beautiful kai, and when its purpose has been fulfilled, returning it to the land through consumption or biodegradation. Wrapt has gained rapport with consumers, the media, and companies worldwide. Brooke has done all of this whilst working through social anxiety and depression and enjoys expressing her personality through food and innovation.
Chantelle experienced the immense benefits of volunteering from a very young age. While at Waikato Uni, she saw first-hand the barriers that young people face that prevent them from accessing these same benefits. In response, she founded The Microvolunteering Collective (TMC), a community group dedicated to enabling anyone, regardless of age, gender, background, or experience, to make meaningful contributions to their community, through bite-sized volunteer tasks, known as microvolunteering. Chantelle believes micro-moments can create macro-change. She uses this idea to ignite community action through all sorts of activities, delivering events and campaigns to empower collective action to create meaningful impact. To date, TMC has enabled over 600 people to contribute over 1,000 hours of their time.
E Wen Wong
E Wen is passionate about solving global issues and understanding the geography which underpins them, using poetry to inspire others to become kaitiaki of our environment. Currently studying law, environmental science and geography, she’s carving a pathway to use geographical insights, problem-solving skills and courage to benefit our natural environment. As a member of Bow Seat’s Future Blue Youth Council, E Wen uses her leadership skills to communicate environmental issues, explore the intersection between science and art and inspire other young people to make positive environmental change. At 13, she founded P.S. Our Beaches (Plastic Solution for Our Beaches) and has been coordinating tree plantings, beach clean-ups and conferences in New Zealand, Canada and beyond including the EnviroPAST conference.
Gala saw her first skateboard when she was 1 and wouldn’t leave the shop without it, going on to become a leading NZ skateboarder, selected for the Olympic development squad last year. By 13, Gala had gained the highest honours in Kyokushin Karate, getting her black belt and was sharing life as a teenager/skater/karate kid on her YouTube channel with 8000 subscribers and over 2M hits. Having experienced and seen the state of young peoples mental health, she has a keen awareness of the epidemic of mental health issues in Aotearoa and is humbly committed to encouraging physical and mental health amongst youth. She’s spent 3 years teaching the art of karate & self-defence. In her role at Oranga Tamariki, Gala leads by example in a connected way without ego, being a conduit for local youth to access mental health services.
Hannah’s core beliefs rest in the value of community and mātauranga Māori, and her activism focuses on climate justice - promoting and advocating for a system built by thriving communities. Hannah is studying a Bachelor of Social Sciences with a double major in Political Science and Māori and Indigenous Studies at the Uni of Waikato. Hannah identifies as takatāpui and was born to a Scottish father and a Māori mother. An example of her work includes the platform, Rangatahi Voices which aims to amplify the voices of youth, supporting them to get involved in social, environmental, and political matters engaged in the kaupapa of decolonisation, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and the need for constitutional transformation. “Learning about my tīpuna, my whenua, and Aotearoa’s history has made the need for climate action and justice much more clear in my mind.“
Harleen Rangi Singh
As a child, Harleen accompanied her grandmother, a nurse, to hospitals every time her family visited Samoa, igniting her love for medicine and the dream to become a doctor. She is half Samoan and half Indian and is proud of both her cultures, which have enabled her to engage more with her community. Alongside studying towards her dream, Harleen is a Pacific Youth Navigator for the SouthSeas Healthcare Bubblegum Project and volunteers for Edmund Rice Camps. She has planned events and designed workshops for the MYSTORY Mentoring program for students in South Auckland. She is also a Resident Adviser at a UoA first year halls of residence, overseeing a floor with 40 young women. Growing up in South Auckland, she loves hearing stories of those in her community and mobilising them to achieve success.
Latayvia Tualasea Tautai
Latayvia is a champion for equality, raising the voices of the marginalised. She is studying towards a BA/LLB and works part time at Fonua Ola, a Pacific social service. As a financial mentor, Latayvia does WINZ advocacy, delivers financial literacy courses, food parcel support and anything else needed. She does this out of empathy and passion for serving children growing up in hardship. When Latayvia was young, family violence forced her whānau into a women's refuge and they faced housing insecurity throughout her young life. From being raised by a single parent on the benefit to being part of the government's welfare expert advisory group, her volunteer work and advocating on the frontline for Pacific families in poverty, Latayvia feels incredibly grateful for the opportunities she's had and strives to live her life in the service of her community.
As a refugee that fled Pakistan to Indonesia in 2103, Madiha was denied access to formal education. Being an ambitious young girl, at 15, this came as a grave disappointment so she helped set up an informal refugee-led learning centre providing education to their community in Cisarua, which has educated over 300 children. Madiha and her family were accepted into NZ in 2018. Once here, she started her law degree, and works part-time as a youth worker for Shama, facilitating programmes helping young migrant and refugee people to integrate into Aotearoa. Madiha participates in many forums speaking up for refugees from a youth perspective including at Waikato Women’s Fund-Waahine Toa. She’s also on the National Migration Advisory Board of the Red Cross.
Nina is a proud first-generation immigrant from the Philippines who is in constant pursuit of breaking glass ceilings. In between studying Law (Honours) & Arts, Nina has stepped up to various leadership roles and has worked across multiple Government agencies as one of NZ’s youngest public servants. Nina’s experiences as a migrant fuels her to champion Filipino representation everywhere she goes. Passionate about digital literacy, Nina believes in the power of social media to influence change. She has worked as a Digital Advisor at the Ministry for the Environment and has also worked with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to deliver the “Unite against Covid-19” campaign. Nina’s next move is to “shake up the legal world”. She’s currently the law clerk for Mai Chen and an Advisor for the Superdiversity Institute.
Pre-COVID, Nora was sitting at the World Vision Youth Conference, hearing Sam Judd talk about the environment and was ignited into action. Since then, she’s become the youngest lead citizen scientist collecting data for the Litter Intelligence campaign and set up a student volunteer army at her local school. With over 400 hours of completed service under her belt, Nora now leads Environment Canterbury Youth Army for Timaru. She's developing a sustainable, biodegradable alternative to polystyrene, has remodelled community gardens and is planting fruit trees and vegetables for families in need. Nora also volunteers with Amnesty International, has developed a multicultural Aoraki Youth Council creating a safe space for kōrero on race relations within the community and was a semi-finalist at the Race Unity Speech Awards.
Having migrated from India, Raksha has witnessed how debilitating gender and educational inequities can be to a young woman's potential and wants to do all she can to dismantle social injustices as an intersectional advocate for women. She remembers getting on a school bus, age 6, and seeing girls from slums serving in domestic child labour roles instead of going to school. As she grew older, Raksha realised how those girls were deprived of a whole lifetime of opportunities due to society viewing their class and gender as a burden, igniting her passion for gender equity. Now, as a student at the University of Auckland, she has established a mentoring programme through the UofA Women in Law club, helping over 350 young women from underrepresented demographics, and co-published a magazine, ‘Women in Law - Outreach Magazine.’
Rangipo Ngaire Takuira-Mita
Rangipo Ngaire Takuira-Mita is a passionate advocate for the natural environment from a te ao Māori worldview, invested in supporting young Māori to be kaitiaki of the environment in their communities. She has been a part of the building of Te Pu-a-nga Maara (TPNM), a collective of rangatahi from South Auckland working towards merging Matauranga Māori, Science & Digital Tech to create innovative, youth-led, indigenous solutions for a sustainable future. Rangipo has helped bring on powerful partners, developed the socials & website, facilitates workshops in both Te Reo and English, and leads the Te Kete Wairoa project, building inexpensive and innovative water quality testing kits. She is also working towards a Bachelor of Matauranga Māori at Te Whare Wananga o Raukawa.
Ruby’s passion for storytelling comes from years of navigating her Rotuman/Polynesian and Pālagi identities. Through Te Kāhui, she facilitates regular creative writing workshops with rāngatahi Māori and Pasifika at Mt Eden Correctional Facility and for her community. She empowers the personal expression and stories of young inmates and emphasises accessible arts opportunities. Ruby sees creative writing “as a vessel for promoting personal and social change”. Ruby is published in the University of Auckland 'Kate Magazine', a university-wide feminist-focused publication. Her poem 'You ask me why this land bleeds' addresses period shame and intergenerational storytelling. Ruby’s poems also feature in Starling, Signals, & Awa Wāhine, New Zealand Young Writers' Festival (2019) and Youth Arts New Zealand 'Young At Art' (2021).
A primary school teacher and NZ-born Indo-Fijian, Sana is passionate about helping children and young people believe they are capable of anything and confident in their cultural identity. Inspired by children’s excitement about the COVID-19 bear hunt during the 2020 lockdown, Sana founded The Teddy Project, collecting donations of teddy bears for new intakes of refugees. Very quickly, over 50 children had received a teddy bear with an additional $3000 raised. Her fundraiser touched many people and raised awareness not only in Christchurch but all over Aotearoa. Sana works hard to ensure that the welfare of refugee families are met through her not-for-profit ‘Open Arms Foundation’, making sure they get justice, live free of poverty and are able to successfully rebuild their lives.
Selu-Kian has always had a passion for youth and community work. A proud Samoan, her love of engaging with individuals from all walks of life and the desire to connect with her ancestor’s innate abilities of storytelling and oratory has fueled her passion for writing and film. With the Village Collective, she works as a member of the Rainbow Fale Youth Advisory Group that specifically focuses on empowering, supporting and creating spaces for Māori and Pasifika LGBTQIA+ and MVPFAFF youth. Working as a Research Assistant for Point & Associates, she helped collate information and data for a Case Study report on Impacts of COVID-19 for takatāpui, queer, gender diverse and intersex young people. She is in her final year of a Bachelor of Communication Studies at AUT majoring in TV & Screen Production.
In 2019 Shuari founded Moraka Menstrual Cups, an initiative to raise awareness of period poverty and provide a cost-effective, hygienic, sustainable and affordable alternative to disposable period products. Shuari has worked with The Period Place, Endo Warriors Aotearoa, BOP Pride, Tautoko Mai Sexual Harm Support, Lions, and Rotary Clubs to spread awareness and donate cups to people in the community. She won the 2019 YES Entrepreneur of the Year for the Bay of Plenty and in 2020 Moraka Menstrual Cups was runner up for BOP Business of the Year. The Victoria University Feminist Organization and Women's Collective have invited Shuari to work alongside them plus she puts energy into educating people about period poverty through socials and podcasts - all while studying Politics and History at Victoria.
Soltice has the coolest title as a Kaitiaki - Geoenvironmental Consultant. She works at Aurecon, advising organisations on how to manage and remediate contaminated land/water. She’s a qualified PADI Divemaster and a BLAKE Ambassador at GNS Science, where she has volunteers assisting researchers looking into NZ’s lakes. Her previous work with the Scion Crown Research Institute contributed to the publication ‘Weaving the Korowai of Papatuanuku – Adaptive Governance and Enhanced Environmental Decision-Making’. With a BSci in Geology (Honours) and Oceanography, and as a ‘Māori woman scientist’, Soltice hopes to resolve complex environmental problems by helping iwi groups and corporate organisations hold hands to implement and blend Mātauranga Māori with Western Science.
Hailing from Fiji and raised in Waimana, Talei is one of the many pou based in the Eastern Bay of Plenty who advocates and strives to uplift rangatahi from all walks of life. She has immersed herself in her community and strives to empower young people, especially wāhine, from all over Aotearoa, taking on many roles within different youth development kaupapa and even co-founded her own - Find your Fish - an entrepreneurial youth movement encouraging growth and empowering rangatahi to pursue their dreams. Talei also volunteers with Whakatane Youth Council as chairperson, is a coach for the Whakatane Future Leaders programme and coaches volleyball for Whakatane High School. Talei has spoken out against sexual abuse within whānau which makes her a vital, safe space for young Polynesian women to reach out to.
Teresa Lee 李慧
As the National President of UN Youth, Chinese-Kiwi Teresa helps diverse rangatahi of all backgrounds, places and interests to have important conversations. UN Youth inspires rangatahi to be engaged global citizens by running events where they develop the skills, knowledge and confidence to make a difference in their communities. Teresa is also in her fifth year of a Bachelor of Commerce / Law (Honours) and works as an actress, consultant and legal assistant. Other notable experiences include being a competitive figure skater, Jacinda Ardern's Youth MP and helping Auckland Theatre Company produce their first East Asian show 'Single Asian Female'. Teresa is a role model for many young wāhine championing diversity, inclusivity and equity wherever she goes.
Umi loves to challenge societal stereotypes or stigma by speaking up in spaces where the majority are non-disabled and pākehā. Having recently graduated with a Social Work degree from Otago Uni, Umi works as a Junior Research Fellow at the Donald Beasley Institute (DBI) and Co-Facilitator at Stopping Violence Dunedin. Her work at DBI has seen her gathering evidence for the UN by conducting interviews with over 100 disabled NZers, identifying serious health and wellbeing rights violations. She has co-authored a book in Japan to increase awareness around diversity and inclusion and is working on two more. Following the 2011 earthquakes in Japan, Umi moved to New Zealand (aged 15). She lives with Osteogenesis Imperfecta and is proud of her disability identity.
A proud NZ born Sāmoan raised in Otara, Vaiola is the first Pacific/Sāmoan Regional President of UN Youth NZ. Currently studying Global Studies at the University of Auckland, she is passionate about civics education and human rights. She also sits on the 2021 NZ-US Embassy Youth Council. In her time with UN Youth NZ, Vaiola has held various roles with her current one being Auckland Regional President for 2021. Through this, she has introduced high school students to civics, ensured Māori and Pasifika rangatahi voices were being amplified and encouraged them to become active citizens in their communities. Now she is making a big effort to make the organisation more inclusive structurally and interpersonally.
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About the YWCA:
The YWCA is a proudly feminist organisation and has been supporting women and girls challenging gender inequality in Aotearoa New Zealand for over 140 years.