Welcome to our International Women’s Day campaign. Over the next 10 days we will be showcasing 10 outstanding leaders in our communities. Please join us.
In December, journalist and broadcaster Oriini Kaipara (Tūhoe, Ngāti Awa, Tūwharetoa and Ngāti Rangitihi), became the first wahine with a moko kauae to present primetime news, increasing the visibility of te ao Māori in a very literal way. She has said her moko kauae “shows my commitment to my Māori language, and I will be part of the revitalisation of my language and Māori customs.”
In her new Newshub Nation role, she’s “focused on ensuring Māori views and voices are heard.” We applaud Oriini – these are aims we can all be grateful for – they help us all to #breakthebias
Anjum Rahman and her community know all too well how dangerous bias is: it is nearly three years since a terrorist targeted Muslims and killed 53 people in the Christchurch attacks. Before then, Anjum and her fellow Islamic Women’s Council members had tried for many years with little success to get anyone in authority to take their security concerns seriously – because of the bias of those in power against them.
And yet, as well as holding those in power to account, Anjum has also started Inclusive Aotearoa Collective Tāhono, to research ways we can all feel we belong, “led by the belief we can build an inclusive society, founded on the partnership of Te Tiriti o Waitangi”. As well as pulling down harmful biases, Anjum is building up hope and better ideas in their place. It’s an incredible person who can do both these vital tasks, particularly during immense community pain and pressure. Anjum Rahman, we honour your incredible work and vision. Thank you for showing us how to #breakthebias and replace it with something better
Dame Sophie Pascoe
On New Year’s Day, Sophie Pascoe became perhaps the youngest Dame ever – a testament to the paralympian’s achievements: 19 medals across four Paralympic Games, including three gold medals and one silver at the age of 15 in 2008 in Beijing. Those incredible achievements and Sophie’s high profile are helping to break society’s bias against disabled people but she’s also inspiringly open and honest about other challenges – such as ensuring, for her mental well-being, that she sees herself as more than just a swimmer. While being disabled doesn’t define her, she’s also learned that “reaching for the top of breaking world records, winning gold medals – that doesn’t define who you are” either. Instead, she’s learning to value different facets of her identity, such as relationships with friends and family. Thanks Dame Sophie, for opening the conversation about how we can #breakthebias not only for the people around us, but also in order to see ourselves in detail – in all our complex, messy wonderful human glory!
As #vogue reported this month, when Shaneel Lal was 17 and volunteering at Middlemore Hospital, they were approached by a church minister who offered to “pray the gay away”. That sparked the advocate in Shaneel – who identifies as transgender non-binary, vakasalewalewa and hijra, and who had already experienced conversion therapy in Fiji. So for several years, they unstintingly led a campaign for conversion therapies to be banned in Aotearoa NZ – and now that ban has come to pass. Characteristically, Shaneel – now 22 – is disappointed the law is not (yet) perfect but it is a start, and a win for human rights that should help protect vulnerable people, thanks to Shaneel’s refusal to let the matter drop, and their fearless willingness to be outspoken. Wonderfully – and with fantastic style – Shaneel has highlighted that harmful biases are still embedded in NZ legislation but that change is possible; we can #breakthebias.
A colleague once told columnist, podcaster, reviewer, and Middlemore Hospital doctor Emma Espiner (Ngati Tukorehe, Ngati Porou) that her superpower was “translating Māori stuff for Pākehā”. We’d say it’s also highlighting inequities, and sharing her stories with such kindness and humour that her audiences can’t help but take on board her insights. Multi-talented, Emma started med school aged 30 as she “wanted to have a practical skill for when the zombie apocalypse happens” and as she describes in the award-winning ‘Getting Better’ podcast, it’s one thing to see inequitable life expectancies on a graph but a very different one when seeing it in real time on the wards – particularly if you’re Māori, because that’s whānau. It’s incredibly difficult to make people pay attention to such important, uncomfortable topics, but Emma does it seemingly effortlessly. Gently and effectively pulling people out of their ignorant bliss – this is an important way to help #breakthebias. And hurrah! Emma, wearing all her different pōtae, will be sharing her wit and warmth with us, in kōrero with Stacey Morrison online 7pm Tuesday March 8. Join us! Read more here: https://awc.org.nz/emma/
There are many reasons to be impressed by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern but the one we’d like to particularly highlight in this #breakthebias series is the clever use of her platform to advocate for more babycare options for families. Back in 2018, she and partner Clarke Gayford were photographed with baby Neve in the UN General Assembly meeting. Ms Ardern was clear: she was breastfeeding, so Neve’s presence on this New York work trip wasn’t optional. Instead it was made possible by Clarke being primary caregiver. The images helped to normalise the ideas of bringing children to work, and Dads doing practical care for babies. The Prime Minister stressed that she was privileged to take her child to work, and that in order for more breastfeeding mothers to have that option, flexible working environments are required and “a culture that accepts that children are part of our workplaces”. The Ardern-Gayford family trip role-modelled that acceptance to help #breakthebias all around the world.
Qiane Matata-Sipu (Te Waiohua ki Te Ahiwaru me Te Akitai, Waikato, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Pikiao and Cook Islands) knows that in order to pull down stereotypes, you have to put new icons and stories in their place. And that’s what she’s doing with the #NUKU100 project amplifying the voices of “kickass” Indigenous women. It’s a podcast series turned book, currently shortlisted for the Ockham NZ book awards. “I wanted to show the diversity of Indigenous wāhine, the diversity of success. Not all Indigenous women speak te reo Māori, contribute to the marae, wear moko kauae. These are not the only things that indigenous wāhine are. [But] every Nuku wahine has integrity. Every Nuku wahine is kaupapa and tupuna-driven, regardless of whether they’re just discovering their whakapapa or whether that’s always been part of their lives.” Showcasing women creating Indigenous excellence in myriad ways is directly aiming to #breakthebias, and we salute Qiane for this fantastic, generous work.
Julie Zhu’s creative films centre on the migrant experience – and breaking stereotypes is just the start: “Hopefully, once we progress past [the] stories that we aren’t just stereotypes, we can tell complex stories that don’t always revolve around identity, even identity stories are also important.” This is what her podcast/doco series ‘Conversations With My Immigrant Parents’ @convoswithmy does: “We wanted to take it a step further and show that we face a lot of other issues, like sexuality, like our relationships with our grandparents, our parents. All these complex issues that everyone faces, but we face them in a slightly different way because of our cultural background.” Most recently she has released “Take Out Kids” a series of short observational documentaries showing what it’s like for children working in their families’ food businesses. Zhu told The Spinoff (which hosts the series) that “Takeout Kids is not just about ‘representation’, but systemic change” – contributing to conversations about the living wage, exploitation of migrant labour and youth pay. Linking the personal to the political, as Julie is doing so perceptively, is vital to #breakthebias
We are in love with LA-based New Zealand fave Melanie Lynskey’s body-positive approach to her new hit show Yellowjackets. She recently told #rollingstone : “It was really important to me for [Shauna, her character] to not ever comment on my body, to not have me putting a dress on and being like, ‘I wish I looked a bit better,’ … I did find it important that this character is just comfortable and sexual and not thinking or talking about it, because I want women to be able to watch it and be like, ‘Wow, she looks like me and nobody’s saying she’s the fat one.’ That representation is important.” We agree 100% and give Melanie a standing ovation for saying no to the formidable Hollywood juggernaut and holding her ground to #breakthebias