Poutama Rites of Passage – programme equips girls with tools for life in the digital age

Twelve young women complete the Māori health facilitator programme E Hine, to be rolled out around Aotearoa.

Ancient Māori wisdom is being drawn on to provide adolescent girls, coming of age in the digital era, with tools to guide them into adulthood.

E Hine is a community initiative curriculum, led by Rawinia Kingi and Madelin Watson, of Poutama Rites of Passage which focuses on the crucial transition from girlhood to womanhood.

Around Whāingaroa/Raglan, more than a hundred adolescent girls have participated in the E Hine programme. Poutama Rites of Passage is a charitable trust which runs rites of passage programmes for girls and boys transitioning into adulthood. Read the full Stuff article here.

The programme has been so successful that it will be rolled out nationwide. In September, 12 facilitators (chosen from 50 applicants) completed the final component of the facilitation training which they will now take back to their regions to implement.

For thousands of years, indigenous cultures have used rites of passage to empower and support young people in their transition into adulthood,” says Kingi. “We believe this wisdom is more important now than ever. The digital age makes adolescence really difficult – teenage girls often struggle with identity and social media. Their bodies are the battleground. Self-worth and empowerment are at the forefront of what we do.”

Created to supplement puberty education, E Hine supports young women as they grow into adulthood, with teachings grounded in tikanga Māori. The curriculum aims to alleviate issues of self-esteem, body negativity, and peer pressure in the modern age.

Left to right: Madelin Watson, Kahurangi Kingi and Rawinia Kingi of Poutama Rites of Passage

These trained mentors will take the teachings back to their own communities across Aotearoa. The Pouhine training mentorship programme involves a mix of women from around the country, including youth workers, whānau leaders, sexual health educators, and psychologists.

This kaupapa (project) is changing lives,” says a youth worker from Hamilton. “I’ve been teaching sexual education for ten years, and nothing has impacted rangatahi (youth) like this programme.”

I had no idea how sacred my body is,” says one E Hine participant. “I had no idea what being a woman meant. I’m going to pass this wisdom on to my daughters.”

The curriculum is taught through different mediums, including rituals, storytelling, and outdoor experience, with focus on Atua Hine – the female deities of the Māori world – to bring the science of human development to life.

Most puberty education happens in school, often by a teacher. It’s very scientific – learning anatomy through diagrams and instructional videos,” says Kingi. “We want young women to understand the mystical nature of their bodies. Connecting rangatahi with indigenous perspectives and their tūpuna (ancestors) is key to building resilience against the bombardment of the modern world. We think it’s vital to honour the depths of young people and their identities.”