We’ve just announced a partnership with Annah Stretton’s RAW programme. See the announcement here.
A unique opportunity
This is our opportunity to refuse to turn our backs on those who have suffered and created suffering, to welcome them to a better life, give them our hand as they make major life changes. What RAW asks of its women is huge; they’re asked to commit to something long term, with little access to family and totally transform their norms and aspirations. The incubation programme is something that many of us would struggle with if we had to go through it, so getting behind these women, and this extraordinary programme, is a unique opportunity in my eyes. One that doesn’t exist anywhere else in New Zealand. A privilege, in fact, that breaks the cycle and presents an opportunity to be involved in helping another woman make a positive contribution to the lives of others. One life, a chance at redemption, we all make mistakes!
There are around 400 women in New Zealand’s prisons today. These are invisible women, often shunned by society and marginalised in every possible way, emotionally, spiritually and physically. Many have children and family responsibilities, therefore when you incarcerate a woman, it’s almost like incarcerating her whole family, as she is often the primary caregiver and when she is removed from the home it's a painful and devastating experience for everyone with enormous repercussions. The matriarch, the mother, is often the centerpoint of the home.
It is easy to justify and accept the process as part of life, and as a society we turn a blind eye and look the other way, it's very easy to say 'if you do the crime, you do the time', but how many of us have escaped this fate due to our privileged home environment, education, good luck and good fortune? Women inmates are often not looked at as people, as human beings, they are just a statistic, a number, one of many numbers and they cost tax dollars. A prison sentence is sentence enough and the stigma remains much like an emotional and social tattoo with enormous implications for generations to come.
How many inmates do we personally know? How many have we talked to? have we listened to their stories? given them a job? or invited them into our homes? The answer for most of us is probably none.
Most of us will never know inmates or have any contact with these women, we may be afraid of them or think of them as the scourge of society, second class citizens..........but women do not go to prisons because they are happy, contented, well educated, have loving families and financial means. Most are in prison for a myriad of reasons, complex and complicated situations where things have gone terribly wrong and they have resorted to desperate measures under desperate circumstances. Most are remorseful, regretting what they have done and the suffering they have caused. The desperation, isolation and violence that often underpins crime has enormous life altering consequences, for themselves, their families and friends, all of whom are directly affected by their actions.
Most of us are so incredibly fortunate to have the lives we live but how often do we spare a thought for those who do not have the same. These women have served their sentences, they have done their time and now it’s our turn, society's turn to forgive and reach out; to give these women our hand, women for women, unity, a collective embrace. We need to show these women, through kindness, that fundamentally we are all the same. We are women and we have big enough hearts and minds to move forward in a positive and holistic way. To welcome these women back into society, to stand together on this journey, and to help women understand that they are not alone.
Join us and RAW by supporting “Buy a Box, Give a Box” or getting involved in our "Break the Cycle" by donating to this powerful programme. Feeling respected and forgiven can go along way towards helping inmates gain the confidence needed to make permanent positive changes in their lives, both inside and outside prison. When woman are forgiven, and included in society, they heal.
Together we have the power to change lives.