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What does Wā mean?

April 23, 2018 0 Comments

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?

We wanted a name with meaning, connection and the ability to empower;  a name that summed up what we do, what we can do and a name with the power to educate. We also wanted a name that had cultural significance to Aotearoa and a name that had flowing links to menstruation, but didn’t yell it loud (either in translation or in its mother tongue). This is because we realise that menstruation is still considered taboo, and, while we challenge this, we still respect people's views and don’t want to make people feel unnecessarily uncomfortable by shoving our ideologies down their throats. Instead, let’s open the conversation.


What it means

In Te Reo Māori, means time, season, duration or period. We thought that was pretty nifty as we as a Collective are here for every menstruator’s time of menstruation and season of life.  However, this etymological connection goes further.

is also the prefix in wāhine (women, plural) and, without the macron, the prefix wa is part of mate wahine, meaning, menstruation.

The macron (line on top of the ‘a’) extends the vowel sound, meaning is pronounced <Waa> instead of <wa>.

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 chose Wā because of the power that menstruation can have, how uplifting female sexuality can be and as a reminder that what we think, directly impacts on what we use and what we do.

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.


We sought advice and a blessing from Senior Māori leaders when choosing this name. We are honoured to be using Wā for the work we do with and for you.
Want to know more on Ngahuia Murphy’s body of work? You can check out her 2011 thesis here.

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