Wāhine Mana Mauri: empowering young Kiwi women to be more active

Imagine eight days of mountain biking, high ropes, canyoning, tramping, and making new friends – and almost no time looking at your phone. It might not immediately sound like something teenagers would apply for, but the first-ever Wāhine Mana Mauri outdoor experience was a roaring success.

Removing the barriers to participation

Here at Y Central, our team designed Wāhine Mana Mauri to help encourage young women rekindle their love of the outdoors and physical activities. We applied to Sport NZ’s Tū Manawa fund, securing funding for the programme through our regional sports trusts: Nuku Ora, Sport Whanganui and Sport Manawatu – this funding would eliminate the cost barrier for all the participants. That meant we could take applications and make sure the programme was targeted at those who would benefit the most from the experience.

Then we needed to let local wāhine know about the programme: “We took to social media – Instagram, Facebook and community pages – and we got 70 applications,” says Tim Mitchell, Programmes Coordinator. “We asked applicants to tell us their circumstances and why a free outdoor programme would be beneficial to them and what challenges they were faced. We got some amazing answers; it was really special to read through them all. We made a conscious effort to have a varied group where the ones who were experienced were able to be role models to the others who were slightly less motivated.”

Participants went mountain biking, abseiled down a waterfall, tried the high ropes course and rock climbing. They hiked through the Tararua Ranges and worked together on raft building and other adventure-based activities. In the evenings, the young women learned about taking care of their overall wellbeing with activities like journalling and baking, as well as hearing from older wāhine about gardening and skateboarding.

“I came out feeling like a million dollars” – Camper Testimonial

After the eight days were completed, we asked the campers how they felt about the experience and the results were overwhelmingly positive:

• “With the constant support from everybody I felt like I could probably climb Mt Everest.”
• “I came out of camp feeling like a million dollars – fit, confident, and ready to try more new things in the future.”
• “I was able to test my limits and learn more about myself physically and mentally.”
• “I want to continue to build up my confidence in the outdoors. On camp I really enjoyed the tramp so I want to take up hiking to help me experience different parts of nature.”

All of the participants said they valued the opportunity to deepen their connection with themselves, and 95% would recommend the programme to someone else. Parents were also impressed, with 100% believing the programme was worthwhile for their daughters.

Here at the Y, we’re developing the programme further, with a second Wāhine Mana Mauri programme running in April. We’re also working closely with our funding partners to keep this programme free for participants.

The ongoing impact of the pandemic has exacerbated some of the barriers to participation in physical activity, and we’re working to remove some of those barriers. The team here at the Y has penned an open letter to parents and caregivers in Aotearoa about making sure kids don’t miss out on that classic Kiwi tradition of the camp experience; it’s through programmes like Wāhine Mana Mauri that the Y lives and breathes its cause.

“It’s an awesome full-on week,” says Tim, “so it’s a pretty exciting opportunity to have the funds to do it again.”


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