Wāhine Toa of Waikato acknowledged by Barack Obama

23 March 2018

Dr Sarah-Jane Tiakiwai.

University of Waikato’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Māori, Dr Sarah-Jane Tiakiwai was one of a small group influential Māori women to meet Barack Obama during his time in New Zealand.

The former President of the United States was in the country only briefly, and met with members of Wāhine Toa as his last formal event. The group brings together Māori women from throughout the country who are giving back to their iwi and communities in varied and extraordinary ways, highlighting their innovative and inspirational leadership.

The 20-strong group had brunch with Mr Obama, including Dr Tiakiwai and three University of Waikato alumni, Rukumoana Schaafhausen, Lianna Poutū and Gina Rangi.

Dr Tiakiwai says the common thread for Wāhine Toa is the desire to create opportunities for younger generations similar to the opportunities that have been created for them.

President Obama’s main event during his visit was a dinner for nearly a thousand people, so this morning's gathering in Auckland was an opportunity to have a more private conversation with the former President.

Dr Tiakiwai says he asked for advice for the Obama Foundation and its goals, and she was able to draw on some of the programmes relating to Māori students at the University of Waikato.“We spoke about connections to the community, and service, as some of our goals are very similar.  It was an amazing and humbling experience and a real privilege.”