Feb. 4, 2021, 9:40 a.m.
Māori women from across Aotearoa have gathered in Kerikeri to continue the battle against alleged prejudice arising from Crown breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi.
It’s been 28 years since the initial Mana Wāhine claim was filed and the long wait for it to be picked up by the Waitangi Tribunal has meant many of the original claimants have since passed on.
However, Ripeka Evans of Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Porou, Te Aupōuri and Ngāti Kahu was there and she opened today's hearings.
Ms Evans says Crown breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi have caused 180 years of wāhine Māori exclusion from decision making, alienation from land and resource and damage to social, economic, cultural and spiritual well-being.
Mana Wāhine Pre-Treaty
Before the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, Māori women were custodians of the land and key decision-makers in Māori society. 13 Māori women signed the Treaty of Waitangi as an assertion of their mana motuhake, sovereignty.
However, under Article III of the Treaty, Māori were granted “all the rights and privileges of British subjects” resulting in the assimilation of Māori into the British way of life. British attitudes of patriarchy were forced upon Māori, leading to the erosion of the roles and value of Māori women.
Mana Wāhine and Women’s Suffrage
In 1852, 12 years after the signing of the Treaty, only men, including Māori, who legally owned land were able to vote. Māori women, along with the Christian Temperance Union fought successfully for the right to vote.
The catch, Ripeka Evans says, was that for Māori women to join forces with the Union, they had to agree not to practice the art of moko kauae, hence the disruption of the protocol.
The impact of inequity in New Zealand resulting colonisation has been passed to current generations.
Māori women make up the highest prison population in the country. They also experience lower-income and life expectancy, poorer education and health outcomes in comparison to the rest of the country, among other issues.
Original claimant, Ripeka Evans says mana wāhine is an expression of her tūpuna wāhine and her whakapapa. She hopes the Mana Wāhine Inquiry will be a catalyst for transformative change for Māori women.
Ms Evans says as a start, she’d like to see the establishment of a Mana Wāhine Parliamentary Commissioner. Further, she hopes for a significant targeted investment into economic development for Māori women focussing on Māori women in employment, business, technology and innovation.