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Mana Wāhine Kaupapa Inquiry – Uplifting Wāhine Māori

He wāhine he whenua e ngaro ai te tāngata.

International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women from across the globe. To recognise International Women’s Day 2021, we look to our own shores for inspiration and discuss how wāhine Māori, through the Mana Wāhine Waitangi Tribunal Inquiry, are reshaping and solidifying the narrative with respect to wāhine Māori, through both a historic and contemporary lens.

In December 2018 the Waitangi Tribunal formally initiated the Wai 2700 - Mana Wāhine Kaupapa Inquiry.

Judge Sarah Reeves presides over the Mana Wāhine Inquiry and is joined by other panel members – Dr Ruakere Hond, Dr Robyn Anderson, Kim Ngarimu and Linda Smith.

The Mana Wāhine Inquiry will hear claims which allege prejudice to wāhine Māori as a result of Treaty breaches by the Crown. These claims extend across many ambits of Crown policy, practice, acts and omissions, both historical and contemporary, and of related legislation, service provision and state assistance.

The scope of the Mana Wāhine Inquiry centres around the alleged denial of the inherent mana and iho/essence of wāhine Māori and the systemic discrimination, deprivation and inequities experienced as a result. There are four pou/pillars to frame the inquiry: rangatiratanga, whenua, whakapapa/whānau and whai rawa.

Claimants have expressed a preference to commence this Inquiry with a hearing process that explores the tikanga of mana wāhine and the pre-colonial understanding of wāhine in te ao Māori. These “tūāpapa hearings” will establish a foundation for the Tribunal and claimants and set the tone for the Inquiry moving forward.

The first two tūāpapa hearings have already been held, in Te Tai Tokerau and Ngāruawāhia respectively, with over 25 claims presenting their tūāpapa evidence. There are set to be a further 3 tūāpapa hearings across the country this year. The unconventional structure of these hearings has provided a platform for claimants to talk openly as well as allow the Tribunal to engage with witnesses in the same way. In a simply way, the Mana Wāhine Inquiry is providing wāhine Māori with a space to share their kōrero and that of their tipuna in their own words, creating a forum that uplifts and recognises the status of wāhine Māori.

A core theme across the already completed tūāpapa hearings has been that the injustices to Wāhine Māori are at the forefront of many other injustices to Māori generally. Degradation to the natural environment, natural resources, education, health and socio-economic opportunities all have their genesis in the mistreatment of, and injustices to, wāhine Māori at the hands of the Crown.

It is vital to understand the linkages between these issues and how their impacts are still widely felt today. In this way, the Inquiry will help spread some light on darker parts of our own history, and aid in producing options to address the many injustices going forward.

McCaw Lewis is playing an active role in the Mana Wāhine Inquiry, supporting both large iwi groupings and smaller, individual whānau claimants to tell their stories.

For more information on the Mana Wāhine Inquiry, please visit or contact Kylee and Kuru.

Kylee and Kuru acknowledge the assistance of Huia Harding in preparing this article.

Kylee and Kuru are both members of our Māori Legal Team. Kylee is a Senior Associate and can be contacted on 07 958 7424, and Kuru is an Associate and can be contacted on 07 958 7475.

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