What does Wā mean?
You’ve been asking for a while now, what does Wā actually mean?
Good question. There's a lot in a name, and, a heck of a lot in a really good name. A name provides structure, clarity, meaning and kaupapa to an organisation. It’s like a handshake - it provides your first touchpoint in getting to know what someone is about, who they are.
So, who are we?
What it means
Wā is also the prefix in wāhine (women, plural) and, without the macron, the prefix wa is part of mate wahine, meaning, menstruation.
However, the word mate wahine is thought to have negative connotations as it can be translated to ‘women’s disease’ as the meaning of mate is linked to death and illness. Interesting, very interesting.
So, why would we still choose this word you may ask?
That's exactly why we should use it. It’s because the history of the word holds so much important meaning. Before colonialism in NZ, as affirmed by Kaupapa Māori scholar Ngahuia Murphy, menstruation was considered powerful and something to be celebrated, rather than something dirty to be hushed away as it is often viewed as in New Zealand today. The word mate wahine is only a recent one, according to Murphy who stated that the term did not crop up in her surveys of ethnographic and tribal literature during her 2011 research (p57). Blood is considered very tapu (sacred) in Māori culture and must be treated with care. Therefore. when a woman has her mate, she is considered incredibly tapu and restrictions are placed on her during this stage as with any other extensions of tapu that may occur within the culture as she, in fact, has the ability to remove tapu. Blood is powerful and potent not pollutant and unclean and a woman is seen is such during this time.
Why it's important
We call ourselves a Collective, as that’s exactly what we are. We are a collective of wāhine, takatāpui, and tāngata, striving to empower people. We have chosen to not make period poverty a ‘woman's’ issue as it affects us all as community and we, therefore, all hold the key to alleviating it. Furthermore, not every ovary-bearer identifies as female and not every female menstruates - but, we acknowledge that women are key in this issue hence, Wā → wāhine. The key to alleviating period poverty and challenging our perceptions of menstruation first starts with talking about the issue. Wā Collective is doing this. Once we’ve managed to start to normalise menstruation, then we can get onto turning the perceptions of menstruation into the positivity it once was in Māori culture and that it can be, everywhere.
Why? Because it’s uplifting and empowering, and, every person deserves that.