I Am Irene.
A speaker, entrepreneur, activist and māmā from Foxton, Aotearoa.
I was the kid in class who could never wrap her head around algebra or trigonometry. Why would I ever need to figure out the height of a tree, based on distance and angles? That was over a decade ago and I still have not used that lesson. The one lesson I did need would’ve focused on three things: relationships, emotional abuse and self-love.
Like many of us I entered the world of intimate relationships with no idea how to identify emotional abuse. Why self-love was such an important element to a healthy relationship. Or, how to set boundaries and expectations when it comes to love. So, by the time I turned 19 years old I was in an emotionally abusive relationship without any awareness.
By the time I realised what emotional abuse was, it was too late for me.
I had already left the relationship and started a new life in a new city. It wasn’t too late for my sisters across the country though. I thought immediately about my sister, cousins, friends and colleagues who were all putting up with this behaviour as though it was normal. Emotional abuse is not normal. I wanted to ensure that the people I loved knew that.
This realisation prompted me to quit my stable job as a bank manager and start Prepair. That was three years ago. Today, I’ve shared my story with over half a million people in spaces like TED Talks, Re: News and Festival for the Future. I’ve worked with organisations like Glassons to champion for change. And I’ve taken a lesson to thousands in schools and universities designed by me that teaches gals like you about relationships, emotional abuse and self-love.
Prepair is work I believe in. It’s work that we all believe in.
Everyday I receive a message from a gal who is grateful Prepair exists. My intention is to provide language to the things that I believe we already know intuitively. An unshakeable, factual and direct approach to the murky world that is love. If you know me well, you know that I’m not interested in popularity or pedestals. I don’t get into bandwagons or short-lived trends. I love to create work that is evergreen, long lasting, designed to be relevant and helpful until the problems I am here to address have ended.
My passion lies in seeing women step up and own who they are with confidence, conviction and grace. Which is why I’m not afraid to share my story. When I was younger my whanau would use the expression 'history repeating itself' as a way to describe a woman in an abusive relationship. I started Prepair NZ to change the cycle, to create a history that is worth repeating itself.
I speak for the women before me who were silenced and those yet to come.
There’s a long line of silenced women behind me in my ancestry. It wasn’t always safe to speak up about abuse. It wasn’t always accepted to stand in your power as a woman. Before I speak in front of an audience, I visualise bringing my ancestors out on stage to stand beside me. I speak for them. I work for them. That’s why I can be composed - I’m carrying the weight of my tupuna.
I’m also speaking for the generations to come. For my daughter Everley-Monroe. For every woman that messages me for help through our social media. Even now, there are women across Aotearoa who are yet to find their voice. If I can soften into the discomfort of sharing my story, perhaps I can liberate one of my fellow sisters to do the same.
When I speak, I know that fifty years from now, another sister will not have to dry her tears wondering where in history she lost her voice. And that, is the very reason Prepair exists.