At the end of 2019 a group of women within the Waikato Women’s Fund (WWF) decided it would be a grand idea to deliver a significant ‘signature event’ in 2020 for the Fund.
Conceptually, Waahine Toa: Wisdom Shared was designed as a day to celebrate and support women and young girls in the Waikato.
The initiative was led by then-committee member Kay Montgomery, who brought in an exceptional community of generous women from across Hamilton. Amanda Graham, Senga Allen, Victoria Ashplant, Ellie Wilkinson and WWF committee members Natasha Harvey and Rachel Afeaki-Taumoepeau volunteered their time and expertise to turn the concept into reality.
After many months of planning, the working group and WWF committee delivered their inaugural Waahine Toa: Wisdom Shared on Saturday 14th March to over 230 attendees at The Atrium at Wintec in Hamilton. The beautiful afternoon was celebrated in ‘High Tea’ fashion with refreshments including beautiful local Zealong tea, Matawhero wines, and Veuve du Vernay bubbles for this special occasion.
With Jan-Maree Franicevic as our amazing MC, we were welcomed by Kaumatua Atutahi Riki and WWF Chair Pam Roa.
Opening remarks were led by Hamilton City Mayor Paula Southgate, giving foresight into an afternoon of empowerment, as we were about to hear from an amazing bill of inspirational speakers.
Angela Swann-Cronin; the first Maaori woman to join the New Zealand Airforce. Dr Karlo Mila; an International acclaimed NZ Pacific poet and writer. Madiha Changezi; a young millennial, a former refugee from Pakistan and now a published author. Karen Morrison-Hume; Missioner and CEO at Anglican Action Waikato. And Parekawhia Mclean; Chairperson, Te Whakatkitenga o Waikato.
The Waahine Toa: Wisdom Shared event team set out to deliver an iconic empowerment event, raise funds and further increase the profile of the WWF. The special High Tea format ensured all three goals were achieved in a manner aligned with the heart of why the WWF exists.
All those who attended heard our five exceptional speakers share their wisdom from lived experiences within their respective sphere of influence and leadership. Each provided an insight into their career experiences, where they had to create their own opportunities to be seen and heard, and in return, see the need to lift women up within their working environments, and agitate for gender equality within their organisations and industries.
All five speakers shared how they had led with purpose to make a real impact, initially without knowing what they were doing, yet over time they each became more intentional in their positions of influence and leadership. This ‘what I wish I had known’ realisation led them to support various women-led projects close to their hearts. These impressive waahine have each raised expectations for women and young girls, concerning leadership and governance, Maaori and Pacific engagement, the number of women pilots in NZ aviation, and getting authentic voices showcased across the arts and creative industries.
Further, they spoke of a movement and rise of strength from women across the not-for-profit and church sectors, raised awareness and education about ethnic and refugee communities, and the holistic wellbeing of whanau-families across our region.
Waahine Toa: Wisdom Shared is a platform providing women and young girls with the opportunity to spend time in the company of other women; friends, family, peers and leaders - all for a good cause.
The diverse audience was reflected with young leaders, Head and Deputy Head Girls from all Hamilton secondary schools, and event student volunteers from Diocesan School. There were corporate and not-for-profit community tables hosting faces from across the Waikato. There were even a few courageous men in the audience, who really enjoyed the show.
Donated items were received and as a result, two exceptional silent and live auctions involving spirited bidding took place, raising the truly impressive amount of $15,636.00 for the Fund. With that said, the Waikato Women Fund committee and the event working group acknowledge and appreciate everyone’s contribution to improving the lives of women and girls and their communities in the Waikato. Thanks to one and all!