Ngāti Whātua-o-Ōrākei chief executive to meet Obama

By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu

Details are emerging about the much-anticipated visit by former United States president Barack Obama to Aotearoa this week and a group of Māori women are lucky enough to have secured a meeting with the global leader. 

Iwi leader Rangimarie Hunia is part of the Wahine Toa Network who will sit down and "chew the fat" with Mr Obama.

Hunia is a leader in her own right, but even she feels starstruck thinking about her upcoming meeting with Barack Obama.

“I wanna scream,” chuckles the Ngāti Whātua-o-Ōrākei, Whai Maia chief executive.

“No, pretty excited...look, I think he is probably one of the most phenomenal leaders of our time.” says Hunia.

The rare opportunity is the handiwork of the Wahine Toa Women's Network founder, Nancy Gilbert.

“I can't wait to see what he gleans from these Māori women because they have a lot to say and they are not shy and they are super accomplished and have done extraordinary things- and many extraordinary things yet to come,” says Gilbert.

The focus of Obama's post-presidency is emerging leadership around the world.

Gilbert says Māori Women leaders tick all those boxes.

“Yeah I know, but we rock right?!” says Hunia, chuckling.

“I think this has come about because of the role that we are playing in our communities. Not just the twenty women that have the opportunity to meet with him.  But there are many wahine Māori who are doing some pretty outrageous things in their communities, in their homes, and in their places of work”.

The women will also dine with Obama, and of course, the question of what to wear is paramount.

“I don't want to wear the same as any other women!... oh my gosh, I'm not sure yet,” says Hunia.

The dinner will be held on Thursday night at an undisclosed venue, followed by talks on Friday.