Pow­er­ful words for w¯ahine at fo­rum

South Taranaki Star - - OUT & ABOUT - CATHER­INE GROENESTEIN

Ma¯ ori women are more pow­er­ful than they know, says a wo­man who uses di­ver­sity as a tool for busi­ness suc­cess.

‘‘Com­ing from a di­verse back­ground ac­tu­ally gives us a cul­tural ad­van­tage in the mar­ket­place and so­ci­ety in gen­eral, in­stead of try­ing to as­sim­i­late,’’ Columbian-born en­tre­pre­neur Lil­ian Gil Valetta told 90 women gath­ered for the Im­pact Wa¯ hine fo­rum in Ha¯ wera on Mon­day.

‘‘New Zealand gets its di­ver­sity and her­itage from the Ma¯ ori cul­ture, and the coun­try would be that much poorer with­out that. It’s so easy to try and fit in and for­get where you came from, but there is strength in di­ver­sity, I call it cul­tural in­tel­li­gence.’’

‘‘A lot of peo­ple think di­ver­sity is just skin colour, but it’s ac­tu­ally the di­ver­sity of thought, the way that you fil­ter things around you, the way you do prob­lem­solv­ing, it’s much broader than the la­bel.

Valetta, who is an award­win­ning en­tre­pre­neur and World Eco­nomic Fo­rum Young Global Leader, came to New Zealand as the guest of Wa¯hine Toa, an ini­tia­tive of for­mer United States am­bas­sador’s wife, Nancy Gilbert, which was set up to show­case the achieve­ments of Ma¯ ori women.

‘‘We have some­thing that most

‘‘There is strength in di­ver­sity, I call it cul­tural in­tel­li­gence’’

Lil­ian Gil Valetta

peo­ple don’t re­alise, it is our re­spon­si­bil­ity to keep it alive, el­e­vate it and turn it into op­por­tu­ni­ties. I’m orig­i­nally from Columbia, and now I am a busi­ness owner in New York city, but I will never, ever for­get where I come from,’’ she said.

‘‘We found out Lil­ian was com­ing, and we were keen to host some­thing, to grab the op­por­tu­nity to have her here,’’ Te Ru­nunga o Ngati Ruanui ka­iarataki Deb­bie Ngare­waPacker said.

The day-long event was in­tended to em­power women who want to make real change in their com­mu­ni­ties, she said.

Some peo­ple had trav­elled from out­side Taranaki to at­tend.

‘‘The tim­ing post-elec­tion is good, a time of new be­gin­nings,’’ Ngarewa-Packer said.

Other speak­ers in­cluded IronMaori founder Heather Skip­worth, Parininihi ki Waito­tara chair Hineangi Rau­mati and iwi lead­ers Ngare­waPacker and Puna Wano-Bryant (Par­i­haka Pa­pakainga Trust chair).

One of a group of stu­dents from Patea Area School, Shivana Eru said she was feel­ing very in­spired by what she had heard.

‘‘I’ve learned that women are ac­tu­ally more pow­er­ful than peo­ple make them out to be,’’ Te Ana­hera Maraki said.

Lil­iana Gil Val­letta (right) in­spired Pa¯tea Area School stu­dents, along with IronMaori founder Heather Skip­worth (cen­tre) at the Im­pact Wa¯hine day in Ha¯ wera.

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