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New Zealand Specific Healthcare Question 3
Women have to sit in the second row during Powhiri (welcome to Marae). What do you think of this?
While many may consider this custom one which demonstrates male dominance over women, this custom clearly shows the high value and respect that Maori place on the woman in their culture.
The Powhiri is a form of conflict in Maori culture. Here, the host and the visitors meet under potentially hostile conditions and so both sides of the meet show precaution as they entering into unknown territory. The rituals associated with the Powhiri are designed to reduce the hostility between the hosts and the guests, by way of speeches or whaikorero.
In light of this, women are placed further back, seated behind the men as they are deemed the “givers of life”. This is a strategy which is used to protect the future of the iwi (tribe) which could be placed at risk should the women be placed in the front row of the Powhiri.
Typically, women do not speak at a Powhiri, unless they are part of the Karanga (the party which call the visitors onto the marae). Therefore, it makes sense for those who do sit at the front.
Men are placed in the front row of a Powhiri as they are considered “expendable” during the conflict and are not afforded the same level of protection.