Last Wednesday 26 July, Auckland Women’s Centre hosted a community forum to unpack what the election priorities might be for women. Our panellists did a good job of making sense of it all.
First to speak, about what wāhine Māori need from the next government, was Zoe Aroha Witika-Hawke (Ngāti Hako, Ngāti Paoa). Zoe is chief executive of E Tipu E Rea Whānau Services which supports rangatahi who have pēpi or who are hapū. Underlining how systemic judgement affects multiple generations and a wide swathe of Māori communities, Zoe talked of her own mother, who the State considered to be unfit to parent when she became pregnant at 15, because she had been in State care herself. Such judgements continue.
“So we fight Oranga Tamariki to actually give our young mums a chance,” Zoe said. “The discrimination, the judgement and the racism is still strong. And our young whanau, they hide away because of it […] They continue to hide in shame because of what society is telling them about who they are. [That] it’s their fault, therefore they can’t get the Young Parent Payment, [instead] they have to beg for it because they don’t deserve it.”
The list of items they are allowed to buy with MSD-distributed payment cards is restricted. “It is a punitive system that is telling our young mamas that what they have done is wrong. And yet we are supposed to care about our future generations, our tamariki and our young people. I am asking everyone here to be aware of these issues, to know they still exist.
“We hope we’re not here in 3 years’ time, asking for the same thing. If you have an opportunity, stand up for our young people.”