We welcome Mary Mulatu as our new Women’s Support coordinator
Te Wāhi Wāhine o Tāmaki Makaurau (WWTM) is growing! Now that Kaitlin Henderson has moved into the new role of Centre manager (programmes), the wonderful Mary Mulatu has joined us to look after Women’s Support (free advice, referral and information), and coordinate our community education programme.
A recent University of Auckland Arts graduate, Mary found her “hidden passion” in studying criminology and sociology, looking at subjects such Black civil rights and the mass incarceration of Māori (including wāhine Māori); WWTM forum star Professor Tracey McIntosh was one of her lecturers. “Criminology opened my eyes: the legal system is not fine as it is, colonisation is still ongoing, and we have work to do,” Mary explains. “I knew stuff wasn’t right, that there was stuff I disagreed with, but criminology gave me the terms and theories to put it all into words.”
Those terms include phrases like “intersectional discrimination” to explain why, as a Black girl growing up in Avondale, Mary was subject to pressures that her classmates were not. For example, she felt she had to straighten her hair to conform to Euro-centric ideas of beauty (“now it’s cool to be myself – I don’t want to shut one part of me out like I did in the past”). And school advisors explicitly tried to dissuade Mary and other minority-group students from pursuing Cambridge exams, saying NCEA was cheaper and easier to pass. “So I took that [Cambridge] route as an act of defiance because I was told not to!” says Mary, who is considering an eventual career in academia.
In the meantime, Mary is working at WWTM/AWC, because, as she puts it, the Women’s Support role includes “everything I am passionate about!” Mary’s desire to help women from an intersectional feminist point of view is inspired by her remarkable mother who arrived in Aotearoa as a pregnant Ethiopian refugee with a small child over 20 years ago. She was determined to increase her independence, so quickly learned to drive, and to speak English. “All that hard work she did, and all the stuff she had to overcome – my main aim is to make her proud,” says Mary, who recently volunteered as a bilingual (English–Amharic) refugee-youth supporter.
Mary lives with her mother and three sisters, the eldest of whom, Marta, completed a communications internship with WWTM a couple of years ago. In her spare time, Mary loves talking with friends, going on roadtrips, watching Marvel movies, and listening to UK drill, Afrobeats and RnB (Nigerian singer Tems is a current fave: “I love consuming content by people who look like me,” says Mary). And even though her football team, Manchester United, is performing uncharacteristically poorly, Mary’s approach remains the same: “I love enjoying life!”