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Well Wāhine Week

It's that time of year when the Gizzy Local team start to look at different horizons and imagine new, slightly more connected and happily active versions of ourselves and the women and girls in our lives. That's because in late Feb, we start noticing events popping up under the banner of ‘Well Wāhine Week’… We start to think, could I do Parkour? What is going on with my hormones? Are the waters of Turanga calling me for a swim or a paddle? Somehow the answers to all these questions are the same: "I'd like to find out." 

This year we have a conveniently well-placed staff member to remind us about the Well Wāhine Week good stuff. And by she, I mean me, Sarah P. Yes, full-disclosure, I also work on the awesome Sport Gisborne Tairāwhiti team putting together Well Wāhine Week, which is about to kick off for its 4th year, bright and early on Friday morning.

In these times, and of course I mean the "Covid Times" and the "Weather Event Isolation Times," it's a treasure having a thing to do that feels like a diversion from the everyday. Interestingly, in the first 3 years of Well Wāhine Week's young life, these "times" are all she's ever known. The first two cautious but exciting years of Well Wāhine Week occurred under the cloud of Covid. And both times, SGT reached out to providers and community members and found that yes, people wanted the opportunity to get out and do something a little different. Similarly, post-Cyclone Gabrielle, where it was possible, wāhine wanted a break, a chance – ever so briefly -- to put their wellbeing and fun physical activity back into their day. 

But why had we lost that? Why was it missing in the first place? There's a trove of evidence that points to disengagement from sports and other physical activities, often from around the age of 14 years old. There might be expectations to prioritise helping the family out with childcare, or we may no longer have time for such things as school performance and work responsibilities begin to loom large. Often puberty feels like it brings with it a less athletic body, what with curves and periods. Some champions of our gender charge out into the world of sport or other physical pastimes, strong and undeterred. For many though, the prospect of being active – in front of anyone - just isn't fun anymore. 

Back in 2019, Sport Gisborne Tairāwhiti pulled together local champions of sport (coaches, fitness providers, teachers, and of course participants, both young and young at heart) to address some of the barriers that face women and girls. Having seen the success of the recent women's-only surf festival, Salty Sirens, that blended fun and competitive surfing with other platforms to connect, like yoga and music, the champions were inspired to try something holistic. 

Well Wāhine Week was an idea borne of those conversations. So SGT called out to providers with this idea. If we could make it easy and cost-effective for you to offer something for wāhine and kōhine, for free, would you? And the answer was yes!

Over the last four years, our SGT team have learned a lot about what the barriers are and what wellbeing looks like for girls and women. And so you'll see the Well Wāhine Week calendar full of events that fit in the colourful garden of "Wellness." There are have-a-go sports of all sorts, there are meditative practices, there are informative sessions that teach about our bodies, sessions that keep alive indigenous practices, and many more. There are sessions delivered in settings built and natural all over Tairāwhiti, including a calendar specific to the East Coast.

One of the most beautiful things I've seen from turning up to dozens of Well Wāhine Weeks over the years is how quickly women and girls who are strangers, warm up and become fast, if just brief, friends. Many women turn up solo to these sessions (they're that inviting!). Within the first few minutes, strangers are laughing together and on a little journey of discovery and fun. Participants find the all-women environments safe, judgement-free and empowering. If you get the formula right, the magic happens quickly and on repeat.

What's the formula? Well Wāhine Week takes the cost, pressure, and intimidation out of the equation. Some activities are proactively, some might even say aggressively, child-friendly so mums can bring their little ones to be looked after while they get down to the business of improving their own wellbeing. It’s exciting to see providers using this week to try new things and learn about what works for the wāhine of our varied communities. To quote the OG Gizzy Local Sarah (Cleave), "These events are all about awakening dormant parts of ourselves, connecting with fellow wāhine, and having some laughs along the way."

The beauty of Well Wāhine Week is that you can just find out. Girls, women and non-binary people of our community, go try something just for kicks.  And then look on the calendar for another thing to try.

Flick through the photos to see a snapshot of week's. And there's even a calendar for rangatahi. To learn more about the kaupapa, view the full calendar of events and to register, visit

Sarah Holliday Pocock


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