Māori women

Māori women play a significant role in developing and sustaining the cultural, social and economic lives of Māori communities.  Research has shown that Māori women spend more time caring for others in their household and do more voluntary and community work than women from other ethnic groups.

Māori women are the driving force behind te kōhanga reo, kura kaupapa Māori and other Māori development initiatives, and have actively contributed to growth and expansion of programmes and services for whānau, hapū and iwi (family, groups of families, and tribes).  Often this work has been unpaid.

Māori women’s outcomes have greatly improved over recent years on a number of key indicators.  These include improvements in the number of Māori women leaving school with at least NCEA level two, participation in tertiary education, an increased participation in the labour force, and significant improvements in health outcomes. As economic position is a key determinant of health and other social outcomes, working to remedy Māori women's low income levels and improve their overall economic position, has positive downstream impacts on other dimensions of their lives and New Zealand society.

Within New Zealand's ageing population, the Māori population is relatively young. Māori females have a similar age profile and a much higher concentration under the age of 15 than European females.

Overall, the proportion of females under the age of 15 is projected to decrease by 2021.  However, the proportion of Māori females in this age group (29 percent) is expected to stay high compared with European females (15 percent). The relatively young age of the Māori population means Māori will continue to make up a significant proportion of the school population in the future.  The transition to post-compulsory education and training is critical to Māori women's employment and income.

The Government, as a result of an agreement with the Māori Party, has implemented an innovative approach to social sector services called Whānau Ora. The Whānau Ora approach reframes how government and providers interact with individuals, by seeing them as part of a whānau, or family or wider collective, and responds to those holistic needs and aspirations.  It strengthens and improves outcomes for whānau by developing whānau leadership and transforming the delivery of social sector services to provide integrated whānau-centred support at the community level. 

The Whānau Ora approach is being implemented by 33 collectives that cover over 200 providers of health, social and community services.  Many are using 'whānau navigators', people who support whānau to access the services and supports they need, and to realise their own aspirations and potential.  Currently they are working with around 2,000 whānau which reach out to 33,000 individuals.  The aim is to identify key goals, increase connectedness and strengthen self-determination.  The Government has broadened the focus of Whānau Ora from health and social services to include employment, housing, educational achievement and the wellbeing of vulnerable and low income whānau.

Read the stories of our Inspiring Women leaders.