This week, Wahine Toa Rising, a New Zealand grassroots organisation led by sex trade survivors, launched its website. Here members of the organisation explain what it is about.
“Wahine Toa Rising is a voice for vulnerable women and children who are exploited in the sex trade in Aotearoa/ New Zealand. Like us, they deserve to know they are WORTHY, VALUED, HEARD, SEEN, and LOVED.”
In New Zealand, all aspects of the sex trade are decriminalised, and the public is encouraged to consider prostitution as a normal job. Around the world, sex trade lobbyists claim that this is the best approach to prostitution and many countries are now looking to pass similar legislation
Earlier this year women who have experience of the sex trade in New Zealand – either directly or living in the culture that brothels openly operating in our neighbourhoods create – came together because we saw an urgent need for women’s and children’s voices to be heard, and Wahine Toa Rising was born.
Wahine Toa Rising is committed to fighting for the Equality Model (also known as the Nordic Model) and to being a voice for our most vulnerable women and children who are exploited in the sex trade in Aotearoa New Zealand and whose voices have gone unheard for far too long.
Wahine Toa means ‘warrior women’.
Rising symbolises the heart-led, survivor-led focus of women lifting each other, while still being autonomous. Rising like te Ata Rā, the morning sun, on the sunflower who turns her face for warmth and light. Rising like we do every morning when it is the last thing we feel like doing. Rising like rewana bread that is shared between whanau (family members). Rising like women do – because that’s what we do and have always done: from the floor, from the prison cell, from the abuse, from the words we have told ourselves about who we are and what we can’t do. Rising and realising we are already Wahine Toa.
Wahine Toa Rising is more than just an organisation. We are a family.
Like families we have faced challenges. But today we stand tall, strong, and ready to be a voice for vulnerable women and children in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Wahine Toa Rising is survivor-led and the first organisation of its kind in Aotearoa New Zealand. Being a new organisation and unfunded at this time, we would love your solidarity and support. Until recently, the only voice Aotearoa New Zealand has heard about the sex trade is the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective (NZPC), which was instrumental in the fully decriminalised legislation being passed in 2003. It is important that as we move forward ALL women’s voices are heard including those women and children who until now have been silenced.
The dedicated Wahine Toa Rising team have committed to our vision together, united for the vulnerable women and children who are trapped in the sex trade in Aotearoa New Zealand. In the short time we have been in existence, we have made submissions to Victoria, sent letters to Governments in Aotearoa New Zealand, Victoria, Queensland, and have sent out several press releases to create awareness and shine a light on the side of the sex trade that NZPC ignores.
We welcome your support and would love to hear from you if you have ideas for how to make our vision manifest.
WAHINE TOA RISING VISION
To support vulnerable women and children in the sex trade to exit, discover who they are, and live their best lives free from commercial exploitation, violence and prostitution.
To call for a review of the current model of decriminalisation in New Zealand and to advocate for the Equality Model.
To create awareness in communities that there is nothing work about ‘sex-work’. Prostitution is violence. It’s time for communities to ‘be a voice’ for vulnerable women and children.
To create an online space where exploited women can access resources to exit more safely and have all the support (through confidential messaging) and resources they need in one place – such as trauma therapy, basic life skills, housing, personal development and education.
To create a safe space for women exiting the sex trade. A secure, safe, lived in residence named Wahine Toa Healing Retreat, dedicated to each of the lives lost in the sex trade, including Bella Te Pania, murdered in 2019. The retreat will offer services and support such as trauma therapy, medical assistance if needed, alcohol and drug rehabilitation, access to reliable social workers, healthy eating, wellness, basic life skills including but not limited to budgeting, cooking, gardening, re education, training, resources, as well as a safe supportive community of survivor leaders to support them.
You can find Aotearoa NZ survivor stories on our website, compliments of Nordic Model Now! and the Aotearoa NZ authors, as well as ways to donate and contact us.
From our hearts to yours.