As tangata whenua, wāhine Māori hold an important status in Aotearoa and play a key role in whānau, hapū, iwi, and Māori communities as whare tangata and whare mātauranga.

Ka mua, ka muri

Prior to the signing of Te Tiriti, wāhine Māori played a significant role in social, cultural, economic, political and community structures across Aotearoa.

Wāhine Māori held important positions of leadership and authority and were involved in decision-making processes, including those relating to whenua, resources, and their communities. They also played a crucial role in passing on mātauranga Māori and practices to younger generations.

Wahine Maori make up 17% of women in Aotearoa, Stats NZ, Maori population estimates at 30 June 2022
69% of wahine Maori have experienced discrimination in their lives, Stats NZ Te Kupenga survey, 2018

Me aro koe ki te hā o Hine-ahu-one

Loss of rangatiratanga and traditional leadership roles, has resulted in prejudicial outcomes for wāhine Māori across multiple aspects of society. This has led to ongoing and systemic economic discrimination, disparities in health, housing, employment, and education.

Acknowledging this and improving outcomes by upholding the mana of wāhine Māori through effective Treaty partnership, is at the core of our mahi.

Wāhine Māori influence and lead powerful legacy movements that have changed, and continue to change, the face of mainstream society in Aotearoa and beyond.

6500 wahine Maori run their own business, Ministry for Women, Nga wahine kaipakihi: he tirohanga maori women in business: insights, 2019
193,700 wahine maori employed in the NZ workforce, Stats NZ Household Labour Force Survey, March 2024

Whaia te iti kahurangi ki te tuohu koe me he maunga teitei, ki nga whetu rawa

Such legacies include:

  • The Mana Wāhine Kaupapa Inquiry into the discrimination and inequality faced by wāhine Māori in Aotearoa.
  • Judge Sarah Reeves: In 2010, Reeves became the first Māori woman appointed as a Māori Land Court Judge, breaking barriers and paving the way for future generations of wāhine Māori in the legal profession.
  • Dame Whina Cooper: Cooper led the 1975 Land March, a protest against the continued loss of Māori land, which raised awareness of Māori issues and helped to push for change, including the establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal.
  • Titewhai Harawira: Harawira was a central figure in Ngā Tamatoa in the 1970s, contributing to the revitalisation of Te Reo and the establishment of immersive Kōhanga Reo and Kura Kaupapa, and has been a leader in advocating for Māori rights and representation.
  • Te Puea Hērangi: Hērangi was a prominent leader in the Māori King Movement and founded the Tūrangawaewae marae in 1914, which has become the spiritual and cultural center of the King Movement. She also played a vital role in establishing the Māori Women's Welfare League in 1951, which aimed to improve the social and economic conditions of Māori women and their whānau.
  • Meri Te Tai Mangakāhia: In 1893, Mangakāhia gave a groundbreaking speech at Kotahitanga Parliament advocating for women's right to vote and participate in political decision-making. This speech preceded the 1893 Suffrage Petition and the passing of the Electoral Act 1893 that enshrined in law the right for women to vote. Mangakāhia is recorded as the first woman to speak in any New Zealand parliament.
The median age of wahine Maori in Aotearoa is 28 years compared to 39 years from women across NZ, Stats NZ, Maori population estimates at 30 June 2023
Average life expectancy, European Women: 84.5 years; Wahine Maori 77.1 years. Stats NZ national period life tables 2017-2019, published 2021.

Ā mātou whakatakoto whāinga 

We prioritise improved outcomes for wāhine and kōtiro Māori through our strategic outcomes and across our work programme. We are committed to the prosperity and wellbeing of mana wāhine across all spheres of life. 

We support the Crown in building enduring relationships with Māori under te Tiriti o Waitangi. We do this through working collaboratively with wāhine Māori, and by adopting indigenous ways of thinking.

Our current mahi to improve outcomes for wāhine Māori:

The gender pay gap between men and women in Aotearoa is 8.6%%. The pay gap for wahine Maori compared to all men (gender and ethnicity combined) is 14.3%. Stats NZ, Household Labour Force Survey, June 2023
Wahine Maori on Public Sector Boards and committees, 14.8% of all governing members of boards and committees, Ministry for Women 2021 Stocktake of public sector boards and committees

Further reading: wāhine Māori

The Ministry has published a range of reports and resources about wāhine Māori leadership, employment, and wellbeing.