Meet our new Youth Coordinator Maria Boow
Maria Boow has long been part of the Wāhi Wāhine o Tāmaki Makaurau (WWTM) community as a creche volunteer for the “inspiring” Solo Mums on Sundays group – and now she is also our new Youth Coordinator. “When Kaitlin called me, I screamed, and my friends were like, “What? What?” But I was just so excited I got the job!” she says.
As the former co-convenor of Mt Albert Grammar’s “fem” club, the long-term Morningside resident knows a thing or two about how to deal with the challenges of holding welcoming space for students of all genders. For one thing, a discussion about intersectional feminism can be intimidating for many: “You don’t want to say something wrong in front of people who seem to know what they’re talking about”.
In addition, the club leaders had to learn fast about dealing with people who came along initially to mock rather than to engage in good faith. “We talked about it a lot and we decided we didn’t want to just kick them out. Instead, we’d remind people of the boundaries at the beginning of each session.” Some had to be reminded to respect other people’s experiences: “We told them you’re allowed to have your own opinions and you’re welcome in our space, but you can’t dispute people’s stories about their own lives.’” The clear boundaries paid off. “It was incredible to see some of the people there for a laugh actually transition to being there to learn more.”
This year, Maria is starting a conjoint law and arts degree at the University of Auckland, taking political studies, sociology and a Māori Studies course (“to find out more about the people whose land I’m living on”). All her courses will start online. “This is our reality now – it’s a way of living I am more comfortable with now,” says Maria. As youth coordinator, she envisages holding zooms with high school students and further enhancing Tuia Te Papa’s great social media presence. “I’m confident we’ll be able to connect.”
She already knows her Youth Coordinator predecessor, Gabriella Brayne, through WWTM. “Gabriella has taught me so much and I look up to her,” says Maria. And so the torch is handed on, tuakana to teina.