Mana Wāhine is a charitable trust created by Adele Keefe that provides support and advocacy for wāhine who have experienced domestic violence, family harm and other forms of abuse. Based in Whakatū, Adele and her team work with wāhine who have left their abusive environment and are on the journey towards healing, restoration and transformation. “These are wāhine that want to grow,” says Adele. “They’re wāhine that are grasping every little bit of support they can get, they’re there to break the cycle. They’re cycle breakers.”
Mana Wāhine delivers Te Ara Wairoa, a twelve-week wānanga that acts as an empowerment programme focusing on identity, purpose and healthy boundaries. “Our main focus is identity, because until we know who we are, how can we walk in our mana? If we don’t even know the mana that we possess within?” says Adele. “I try to spark the ahi kā, and before you know it, they’re soaring. And they’re teaching me too.”
Te Ara Waiora provides a safe environment for wāhine to connect with others in similar circumstances, to free themselves from past trauma and move towards a future in which they are strong, confident and empowered. This includes building better wellbeing habits, learning critical life skills and navigating other services and agencies to ensure they are accessing the resources they need. There are seven wāhine in each intake, who have access to wrap-around support including one-on-one mentoring, fitness sessions, budgeting and financial advice, and support meeting basic needs.
A recent addition to the Mana Wāhine offerings is māra kai support, thanks to a collaboration with Kōanga Kai. As well as supporting ten whānau with māra kai at their homes, Adele is hoping to start a small community garden to provide kai for wāhine living in emergency and transitional housing. “I’m trying to think ahead in getting us skilled up to feed our whānau like our tūpuna did,” she says. “A lot of us, myself included, weren’t brought up that way. We’re excited to start that journey because it’s not just a māra for us, it’s how we nurture our tamariki, it’s the new soil, the new growth, the sustainability, the connection to Papatūānuku, to our tūpuna.”
Adele’s background has been the inspiration for Mana Whānau, being brought up in gangs and experiencing abuse for more than 20 years – an experience she says is a crucial part of her ability to build trust with the wāhine she works with.
“All I really have in my hands to use is my testimony – what I’ve overcome, what I’ve walked through,” she says. “I can speak from a place of having been there and done that, and here I am now. Rather than say those 20 years were lost, I’m flipping the script and I’m using my past experiences for good.”