Shina Reaches Out “Across the Seas” to Cooperate with New Zealand Women’s Refuge

Shina, Inc., a Hyattsville, Maryland based organization, hosted representatives of the New Zealand Women’s Refuge,  during a round table presentation held at the Good Samaritan Lutheran Church in Lanham, MD on the subject of effective ways to address domestic violence. In an expression of “hands across the seas” collaboration, Good Samaritan Pastor Gloria welcomed the Women’s Refuge representatives who shared their experiences on methods they have implemented in New Zealand to protect women affected by domestic violence.  Pastor Gloria thanked Shina President, Jessica Mushala for hosting the event, emphasizing the importance of reaching out to other parts of the world and thinking “outside of the box.”

The visit of the New Zealand Women’s Refuge representatives came as follow up to the United Nations 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women during the side event organized by Shina, Inc and the Panamerican-Panafrican Association, Inc. The UN session gave individuals throughout the world the opportunity to cooperate and exchange ideas on how to address the issue of violence against women.

In an evocative voice, Wenda Muir began with a traditional New Zealand call to prayer and continued with a powerful presentation which focused on the role that community support and strengthening cultural traditions can play in ending domestic abuse. Women’s Refuge is a network of “refuge” safe houses throughout New Zealand that offer a place where women can go to feel safe and receive the support they need to move into a safer future.

Women’s Refuge administrator, Caroline Hemway, in referring to herself as a First Nation woman and tribal person, explained that the visible tattoos on her face and her arms were a way of wearing her genealogy – “right side male, left side female, which brings me together.” That same principle of balance is reflected in the philosophy governing the Women’s Refuge by helping women find their balance within their own communities.

As explained by Karen Tohey, a member of the governing board of the Southern Women’s Refuge, “What we believe as indigenous people helps us to manage a woman’s shelter from an indigenous perspective. We operate our safe house according to our beliefs. Fundamental to these beliefs is not only to help women victimized by violence but to prioritize the welfare of the children as well. We are a women’s movement that also recognizes the role of men. Our basic values , our rituals of engagement, our belief base, are drivers of how we engage our organization.”

The New Zealand guests also referenced that 99% of the women who seek refuge in their safe homes go back to the men who abuse them. Since this phenomenon appears to be a common practice in most countries around the world the Women’s Refuge focuses bringing the entire community together to resolve conflicts. These safe houses are autonomous in their own right, receiving a small percentage of their operating costs from small subsidies, despite the efforts of national organizations that lobby a great deal for more help. They also receive funding from the government, which falls far short of their needs, since their budget is sufficient to respond to 3000 police calls annually, when in fact they need funding to be able to respond to 30,000 calls for help per year.

The audience’s participation was key in creating a dialogue between communities on opposite sides of the globe.  Mr. Charles Katera, a native of Tanzania, extended an invitation to the members of the Women’s Refuge to visit Tanzania to share their successful experiences in dealing with domestic violence. In closing, executives of the Panamerican-Panafrican Association, Henri and Lisa Polgar, conveyed the importance of non-governmental organizations in bringing about change and being the catalysts for action at the United Nations in support of women’s rights.


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