WWOOFing it Up in Kiwiland: organic farming in New Zealand 2012

3 years later and life brings me back to New Zealand. This time for a longer period, for a different purpose, with a different outlook on life than last time. I hope what transpires from a few years of travelling as far and as wide as possible across this beautiful country is a basic but decent knowledge and experience in organic farming, self sustainable living, and food production. Come and join me, there's loads of room in the car.

Monday, 28 September 2009

There's always 3 sides to the coin...

There's always different perspectives to any story. I think that's why I never liked history at school. Black and White. 1 + 1 = 2. Real life, is never so simple. Shades of grey, flashes of white light and pitch darkness punctuate my existence, and 1+1 always = 3...

Following my visit to the women's refuge at Viviana, I had a meeting with Shakti Women's Aid Auckland last Thursday which left me in much more hopeful spirits. They are members of the National Collective of Women's refuges and contrary to what Viviana told me, there is no rule that women can only stay in refuge for 2 weeks. In fact, Shakti reckon that it's a pretty good model and works nationally rather well.

The Director, Farida, actually went to the Shakti Women's Aid in Edinburgh, moved to Auckland and set it up 14 years ago because there was no service for women of Asian, African and Middle Eastern women. The pacific, islanders and Maori women have their own services. There are no 'ethnic minorities' here. The heirarchy are Pakeha and Maori, I'm Pakeha, anyone who's not Maori, is Pakeha. There are no Chinese, South Asian parties in parliament, but there is a Maori party who make a lot of noise....

Anyways, so Shakti brought my domestic abuse research back to speed, in that they were realistic about the seriousness of our task, but actively challeninging, and in a positive way. I liked their energy, their enthusiasm to show me around their organisation and Farida asked me to pass her contact details on to the various people we happen to both know, her through her life's problems and me through my race equality work. It's a small world afterall and in Auckland they're proud that it's 4 degrees less than the average 6 degress of separation that connects everyone in this city. Indeed, for me it's only one because I make the most of my connections...

So Shakti told me that they do have 24 hour refuges and don't turn away women who have additional support needs but have no capacity to support these women separately, as we do in the UK. This was a relief. I didn't want to believe that refuges were turning all these women away. Women's refuges are the only way out for these women sometimes. Also heartening was the size of the organisation with approximately 40 staff, it's the same size as Edinburgh Women's Aid and growing, plus a core group of volunteers that are involved in all aspects of their activity. Really looking forward to visiting them and next week on Tuesday I'm going to the Maori refuge...

On Friday I went to visit Man Alive, another very interesting, active organisation challenging domestic violence from the perpetrators perspective. They started in the 1990 out of a need identified by men who understood that a violence free future for male perpetrators was not being supported by the justice system which put them in jail or community service, only to make them even more violent (if in jail) or set-up to repeat history. It seems obvious to us now, but the shock is beginning to wear off that these organisations have only been around in the last 25 odd years, some only in the last 10 years...anyways, Man Alive have 17 groups across New Zealand with hundreds passing through the doors of their base where I visited. Jim, the Director, explained that 90% of clients are mandated from the courts of justice and thus recieve government funding for their counselling, group therapy or support service uses. The other 10% self refer but are required to pay the fees ($60 to $90 per hour) that are not cheap. A barrier that they are overcoming with a staff member dedicated to funding applications and sourcing alternative funding. I was surprised, but pleasantly, to hear that they have a boys group, from 8 to 13years, then young mens, from 14 up, in addition to the expected men's groups.

Historically, as expected, they were shunned by the women's organisation because they refused to employ female staff. As a Community Development Worker, I believe in these circumstances that this is the best empowerment strategy for men who have lacked male role models through their whole lives. Having cut my teeth on the National Union of Students, Black Students' Campaign, I'm all for self-definition and automous governance. It goes back to that parenting responsibility I talked about before; how can you know others if you have yet to know yourself?

So the good news for Man Alive is that they overcame the barrier to accrediting their counsellors by creating their own body for this and are now becoming more accepted in the gender-biased non-profit and statutory violence prevention sector. United we stand; divided we fall and this applies equally across genders in the feminist movement for equality.

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