Focus on: Wahine Toa, Walking The Talk

Gwen and Abbey at home (Click for full size)
Gwen and Abbey at home
(Click for full size)

Scratch the surface of Ōtaki and you find wonderful people doing wonderful things. Things that matter, that make a difference in people’s lives. Wahine Toa, run by two Christian women who not only talk Christianity but walk it as well, is a faith based initiative aimed at strengthening women who find themselves locked in a life of domestic violence. 

These two wahine toa have a mission to promote personal growth and independence in women. And what’s more they’re doing it. They offer a haven, a retreat for women who chose to come and do a twelve week programme to break the habit of dependency associated with domestic violence. They want women to become strong and to reconnect with their community and their families and so in a safe and positive way change the way they and their children live.

Abbey Namana and Gwen Taueki Ah-Sin self fund a home-based support network for women who come from a background of violence. It is a residential programme and requires absolute commitment to complete the course. It’s Tough Love for women. They want to break the cycle and operate not as a refuge, but as a pathway from refuge to re-integration.

They have observed that domestic violence in getting worse in Ōtaki, fuelled by drugs and they offer a tool box of strategies and interventions to break away from that dreadful downward spiral by maximizing women’s potential when undergoing the hardship of domestic violence. 

Gwen has been working in health and social services since 2000 working within mental health and addictions evolving from frontline to an exucitive level. The principles of Whanau Ora are what guides her work which she believes are vital in remedying social inequities and social justice.

Abbey understands these women. She’s been there; from her own Once Were Warriors’ background. It is from this beginning that she moved to teaching and social work. She is now completing her degree in social work.  With five children of her own she has seen the effects of violence on young minds.   

In 2014 Abbey decided to do a community project based on a church response to domestic violence as the research component of her degree in social services. Wahine Toa is the result of that research project, which found that local churches were able to respond to basic needs but were reliant of the systematic approach of government services. What was needed was a social worker, co-ordinator and a team of people ready to accommodate women and children in crisis with emergency accommodation, food and clothing. A Christian ministry, already run by the churches when Gwen joined in 2015, became the catalyst for their own women’s ministry — Wahine Toa. In July this year both Abbey and Gwen moved into a six bedroom house as ‘live-in’ mentors for women. There they mentor abused women to change by offering positive alternatives to their lives, controlling their addictions, issues and co-dependency.

It’s not all fun and games for the women. They have to commit to the programme, stop using drugs and alcohol, participate in the activities and take care of the house. Everyone eats together, the day is started with a prayer and ends with a debrief of the day. The day is structured to include free time, gym time, library time, gardening and creativity. There are group sessions and household chores There are rules to ensure the emotional and physical safety of the residents and an on-going commitment to completely break from past addictions. The women learn routines, love and discipline and respect for each other. For their safety and security and peace of mind visitors are screened and partners have to request permission to visit.

Tough love with an open Christian heart: These two women, not only talk but they also walk their Christian beliefs.

Wahine Toa standards ensure there is harmony in our home:

  • The regeneration programme is designed to enable you to focus on your recovery with few distractions.
  • The Wahine Toa home is an emotionally secure environment where we maintain good relationships, mutual respect and care for one another.
  • Every woman who comes to Wahine Toa can expect to find a safe, structured and supportive environment where people help each other.
  • Wahine Toa provides an opportunity to make a complete break from past addictions and behaviours.
  • Every woman will learn on-going positive daily routines which can assist them in becoming free from compulsive or addictive behaviours.
  • Love and discipline replace negative values and chaotic lifestyle.
  • Each woman will be required to sign a contract to remain at Wahine Toa for a 12 week period.
  • Visitors to our home are screened and need prior consent.