Despite the impact of COVID-19 on programmes, in the past six months funding for small local projects has made a difference for the journey of women in the South Island:
The Kai Pantry
The Kai Pantry is a community initiative providing staple grocery items and basic toiletry items to women attending one of the final four 2021/22 community programmes in the region. Participants are given a list of items available in the Kai Pantry for that week and are able to choose up to six items to take home.
“The majority of the women in our services are mothers and putting kai on the table can be tough for them,“ explains Southern Regional Director Practice Delivery Polly Cunningham. “The cost of living is on the increase and this is putting a great deal of pressure on a number of families we work with in the community. The programmes team’s idea of a Kai Pantry is quite a simple concept, which can make a big difference for the women and their families.”
Building Awesome Whānau
This six-week, seven-session parenting programme runs with 10 participants at a time and is aimed at parents of children aged up to 12 years old. It aims to inspire and equip whānau with the tools needed to thrive as parents. Polly says the course balances Māori and European perspectives. “Building Awesome Whānau incorporates the best of Toolbox Parenting Courses with the wisdom of mātauranga Māori and is accessible for all,” she says.
Delivered by Pillars in Ōtautahi/Christchurch, the sessions cover a range of parenting topics. The Women’s Strategy funding has allowed Pillars to expand the core ideas they have for the programme and also add some new elements to the course, including providing kai for participants to take home.
Positive Lifestyle Programme with Salvation Army
This women’s initiative in Blenheim is a one-on-one programme aimed at improving life skills and building participant’s self-worth and self-awareness. It builds on the success of the initial Positive Lifestyle Programme (PLP) piloted last year.
Blenheim Service Manager Sharon Hansen says 14 women will go through the programme this financial year, including three who attended last year and are ready to go through a new advanced programme, which builds on learnings from the first programme. This was developed following participant feedback that they felt they ‘had made such a change in their lives, but just scratched the surface of what they could achieve.’
A success story from last year’s programme is Tonia (not her real name) who, at her first PLP, was on a dual sentence of 100 hours Community Work when her Probation Officer encouraged her to attend the Tikanga programme. The provider also encouraged her to have the confidence to take up a management position at her employment. “Tonia did so well in changing her life and being outstanding in both programmes and with her sentence compliance, the supervising PO put forward an application to cancel her Supervision sentence,” says Sharon.
“She has gone on to get her children back. Judge Callaghan has congratulated her for her efforts and her outstanding progress, and he has cancelled her sentence of Intensive Supervision. There are a lot of big shifts with the PLP and we hear these types of reflections often. It’s one of those programmes where the feedback is always loud and positive.”
Wellness wananga ‘Mana Wāhine’
This initiative is open to women on any sentence from across the Nelson, Marlborough, West Coast District. It focuses on Mau Rakau (a traditional Māori martial art which promotes control, strength and confidence), Karakia (incantations and prayer promoting guardianship and protection), Wāhine Atua (expresses the elements of mana wāhine and the narratives of atua wāhine) and a cleansing ceremony to promote wellness. This is held at Te Hora Pa, Canvastown and will run 13 to 15 May 2022.
Participant responses to this programme in the past have been overwhelmingly positive and powerful. Abbey (not her real name) attended in 2021 and says the programme inspired her and built her personal and cultural confidence.
- “We learnt about the whare tapa wha, which helps keeps us physically, spiritually and mentally connected to our family and balances us so we remain strong within ourselves so we can thrive. We learnt if one of these are out of balance our wellbeing is impacted. For as long as I can remember I have battled addiction, as well as past trauma. My whare tapa wha has been broken for so many years that I never thought I'd be able to heal. As Sunday came around I was sad to leave, but my cup has never been as full as it is now so I take that home with me, and my family will reap the benefits of me attending. I can only hope in future other wāhine similar to myself get this opportunity. My time spent in the Corrections system was where I met so many other wāhine that were suffering like myself.”
Chris O’Brien-Smith, Te Waipounamu lead for Wāhine – E rere ana ki te pae hou, says these initiatives are all part of a wider programme of work looking at how the region delivers on the Women’s Strategy: Wāhine – E rere ana ki te pae hou, including services which are personalised, trauma- informed, culturally responsive and specific to the needs of women.
“Through our work in the women’s space, we want to empower women with the support and tools to live fulfilling lives without crime and harm,” says Chris. “These initiatives are successful because they are targeted to the needs of women, they are local and timely in the women’s lives. Being in the community, participants can take their learnings home with them, practise these with their families and see the difference new ways of thinking can make in their lives, and their children's. Through our successes with women, we transform the lives of many; the individual, their families, their communities, potentially for generations to come.”