Māmā Neke Maunga – Knowing our worth is our birthright

Whānau, hapū, and community groups throughout Te Tai Tokerau are actively finding ways to support each other as they develop strengths-based, community-led solutions to challenges faced by young and old alike. 

One such group is Māmā Neke Maunga.

Corina Strongman Moses, Shirleyanne Brown, and Sherie Ihaia-Reweti

Inspire to aspire

A dynamic, forward-thinking collective of young māmā in Te Tai Tokerau are turbo-charging their own personal and professional lives through mutual support and inspiration.

Māmā Neke Maunga, aka Mothers Moving Mountains, are building great futures for their tamariki and whānau. They’re also helping to lift whole communities out of economic and spiritual poverty.

Their clarion call is Whakamanawa kia wawata – Inspire to aspire.

Māmā Neke Maunga have started a movement.

Māmā on the move

Māmā on the move

Māmā on the move

Māmā on the move

The movement begins

In 2021, Teira Wiki responded to an invitation from community development kaimahi and E Tū Whānau advocate, Shirleyanne Brown, to bring her newborn pēpe and toddler twins along for a cuppa with three other young mums to share their experiences and aspirations for themselves and their tamariki.

“I’d been house bound for two years with three children under five,” says Teira.

“I’d been looking online at art and design work, wondering if I could do something in that field, but I was tired and low on confidence.”

Entrepreneurial minded hauora enthusiast and māmā of four at that time, Sherie Ihaia-Reweti, was also at that meeting.

Sherie and her cousin, Corina Strongman Moses, were already running open-air, holistic healing workshops in community spaces – the beach, the ngahere, a park next to a supermarket – for anyone who turned up.

“I’d just come out of a volatile relationship. This was a way to heal myself and help others at the same time,” says Sherie.

She and Teira shared what we were doing online, their rōpu grew, and they began to see that this could be a movement. Then Sherie heard about Māmā Neke Maunga. “Whaea Shirleyanne got us together for coffee and it all moved quickly from there,” she says

Teira Wiki, Crystal Lawrence, Corina Moses-Strongman,
and Sherie Ihiaia-Reweti

Building the movement

The māmā organised walking groups and outings where they could be themselves, throw around ideas, listen, encourage each other, and relax while safely sharing the care of their tamariki.

They created māmā-only time away from tamariki as well, safe in the knowledge that their pēpe were being well cared for by others. They welcomed those carers – the aunty māmā, sister māmā and friend māmā – into the kaupapa as māmā who fit te ao Māori rather than a strictly biological definition of the term.

The kaupapa supports journeys of change by connecting māmā to each other

The kaupapa supports journeys of change by connecting māmā to each other

The kaupapa supports journeys of change by connecting māmā to each other

The kaupapa supports journeys of change by connecting māmā to each other

They’ve reached out to their kuia as well and are currently collaborating with the Korowai Manaaki Terenga Paraoa kaumatua group in a Puanga art exhibition due to open at Whangarei’s Hihiaua Cutural Centre on June 21.

A whāngai whānau

Shirleyanne describes Māmā Neke Maunga as a whāngai whānau.

“These māmā have created a space to process their lives and connect with other māmā.

They’re saying, ‘Haere mai, you’re a māmā, you matter. Let’s help each other with whatever our aspirations are,” says Shirleyanne.

Teira credits Sherie and Corina, and the knowledge they shared from their hauora, with giving her the confidence boost she needed to explore business startups. She’s now running a successful photography business taking quality portraits of whānau groups that their mokopuna and future generations will always treasure.

Forty māmā inspired into action in only three years

Over the last three years, more than forty other māmā from Whangārei to Kaitaia have been drawn to this welcoming, creative kaupapa.

As they have grown in confidence, many have peeled off from the group to focus on achieving their own dreams. In doing so, they spread the kaupapa further.

Like Teira, some found the confidence to gain employment, develop small businesses, buy homes, move into papakāinga, and even reclaim children from state care.

Three are now smoking cessation practitioners. Four are taking part in a year-long, wealth creation scheme to support their whole whānau.

Advice sought by policy makers

The lived experience of these Māmā is sought by government agencies and community organisations who want their advice on how best to develop services and policies affecting wāhine and their whānau.

“We have heaps to offer,” says Sherie. “We’re doing things that people in organisations are doing, but at no cost to them. That’s okay because it’s important that Māmā Neke Maunga remains free and unrestricted, that māmā feel they can be part of our kaupapa without feeling under any obligation.”

Knowing our worth is our birthright

All māmā, says Sherie, are welcome into that kaupapa.

“All they have to do is join us, with their pēpē, in whatever activity or meet up they want so that they can be appreciated for being the wāhine toa that they are.

After all, we are the ones who bring life into this world.

We are wāhine Māori who deserve to feel confident in who we are.

Knowing our worth is our birthright.

Me aro koe ki te hā o Hineahuone – Pay heed to the power and dignity of women.”

Want more?

Learn about E Tū Whānau Kahukura – the people who inspire change in whānau and communities.

Read about the E Tū Whānau Charter of Commitment – a public commitment to positive change that anyone can sign.