It was a proud day for 11 young Taranaki women as they graduated from a life-changing course feeling empowered, confident and dressed for success.
The young Maori and Pacific Island mothers were the first graduates of the eight-week Mana Wahine Collab programme, a collaborative initiative by the Maori Women’s Welfare League, Tui Ora and Sport Taranaki. Other agencies and businesses also lent support, including Dress for Success New Plymouth.
The course aimed to improve the women’s health and wellbeing through classes including healthy kai, physical activity, goal-setting, parenting, budgeting, self-care and self-love.
At last week’s graduation ceremony at the Novotel, proud whanau and friends heard the programme had been an overwhelming success, with two women gaining jobs, one studying and others looking to start a business together.
Dress for Success stylist Maria Sanchez also watched proudly as one by one the women took to the stage, heads held high in their new outfits.
Maria was one of the volunteer stylists who held individual consultations with the women ahead of their graduation.
Her goal was to help them discover their own unique style and find clothes they felt empowered and themselves in.
Each woman was given clothing, shoes and accessories that were suitable not only for the graduation, but could be worn again for job interviews, work or other occasions.
At the graduation, mum of two Tina Moeahu said before the course she was in a “bad space” – she was getting in trouble, lacking direction in life and feeling unfulfilled.
In just eight weeks the course had changed everything.
She said she had given up drinking, was focused on becoming a better mother and was setting goals for herself.
She was working towards financial stability and planned to set up a catering business with fellow graduates. The idea came about after the group – now lifelong friends – successfully catered a Tui Ora conference as part of the programme.
Tina said she had been shy going into Dress for Success, but from the moment she met Maria in the lift she relaxed and had fun.
And although she had gone in just wanting a pair of trousers, she came out with a smart black and white dress she loved – perhaps a great example of how the women pushed themselves out of their comfort zones throughout the entire programme.
Dress for Success co-ordinator Helen Montgomery said working collaboratively with the lead agencies and providing work appropriate outfits for the women had been “a wonderful experience”.
“It has been a privilege for Dress for Success to be part of this life-changing programme.”
- Dress for Success is always in need of good quality, work-appropriate clothing, handbags, shoes and accessories. Donations can be dropped to the office at Level 4, 44 Liardet St, New Plymouth. For more information check out Dress for Success New Plymouth on Facebook.
Photo caption: Tutors and graduates of Mana Wahine Collab at their graduation ceremony.
Words by Katie Holland