Gang women need support, says leader
The leader of the female-only chapter of the Mongrel Mob says women in gangs are forgotten mothers, daughters and sisters who deserve support and protection like anybody else.
Paula Ormsby spoke at the Waitangi Tribunal as part of the Mana Wa¯ hine Kaupapa inquiry at Turangawaewae marae yesterday.
The Wai 2700 Mana Wa¯ hine Inquiry is hearing outstanding claims alleging prejudice to Ma¯ ori women from Treaty breaches by the Crown.
Ormsby said gangs were a part of the community and were a direct result of colonisation. Therefore, the Government had a responsibility for the marginalisation of women in gangs.
With male and female members of the Mongrel Mob behind her, Ormsby said there was an intrinsic ma¯na within Ma¯ori women, referring to whakapapa and atua wa¯ hine within Ma¯ ori cosmology.
‘‘I continue to be offended when our sacred stories are referred to as a myth . . . I stand here in my truth, no matter what discomfort I cause.’’
Tribunal Judge Sarah Reeves asked Ormsby what the key issues for women Mob members were in the inquiry. ‘‘I think the key issues that the women that I speak for is around having equity, is around having the opportunity to keep themselves safe as other wa¯ hine are allowed to do,’’ Ormsby replied.
‘‘We don’t have the resources, and there are no resources to do that. Our women are the most marginalised and disenfranchised within all of the community, and the Government has never given acknowledgements to that.’’
She said women were often asked why they stayed in violent relationships, but gang-affiliated women often had nowhere to turn. ‘‘She’s connected with an organisation this country still doesn’t understand.’’
Ormsby told Stuff that women in gangs were at the bottom rung of the ladder in society.
‘‘You have got the structures of Pa¯ keha¯ men, then Ma¯ ori men – Ma¯ ori men had a place within the patriarchal system of a Westernised colony. Then you have Pa¯ keha¯ women, then you have Ma¯ ori women, then you have Ma¯ ori women in gangs.’’
The high incarceration rates of women in gangs showed that many had lost their place in society, Ormsby said.
They often faced violence, but could be turned away from women’s refuges because they were deemed a risk, she said. ‘‘So we bring them to our homes, we house them ourselves, we take care of them ourselves. Where is the funding for that?’’
Ormsby started the femaleonly Wa¯ hine Toa chapter of the gang in Waikato in 2020. Asked about the image of violence and criminal activity in gangs, she said it came from a ‘‘distorted view’’.
The narrative that all gang members were bad people bred mistrust between gangs, the Government and the police, she said. ‘‘Nobody comes to us and asks how is it in your organisation. They have gang experts that have never stepped foot in a gang headquarters.
‘‘[Women in gangs] are mothers, they are grandmothers, they are sisters, they are wha¯ nau who deserve our respect.’’
The Mana Wa¯ hine Kaupapa Inquiry has 200 claimants, including individual wha¯nau, hapu and iwi alongside groups from the Public Services Association, Ma¯ ori midwives and nurses, survivors of family violence, and women in the shearing industry.