An entrepreneurial spirit, a deep connection to the women that came before me and an unshakeable desire to change the narrative we’ve been telling ourselves around self-love, relationships and emotional abuse.

I am Irene.

A small town Foxton girl who isn’t afraid to play big. Quit a safe banking job and start an organisation that kicks emotional abuse to the curb? Bring it on. Partner with Glassons to spread a message of self-love to women across Aotearoa? Sure thing. Stand on the TEDx stage, and lean into the uncomfortable stories of my past? I’ll dig deep and get it done.

I figure my playing small does not serve the world.

I value authenticity.

I’m not interested in popularity or pedestals. Give me soul, substance and a creamy vienna with some quality conversation any day. I’m happy to be the woman sitting quietly in the corner, with wild curly hair, an oversized jumper and a journal filled with black inky pen - getting stuff done.  

I lead with intention.

I believe in being a source of truth in a world full of opinions. To be an adamant leader, I must also be adamant in who I am. My commitment is to deliver work that has substance and impact.

Rather than getting lost in the problem, I’m focused on developing solutions. Providing women with accessible relationship resources. Delivering clarity on the wishy-washy definitions used to describe self-love. Mobilising my team of volunteers to facilitate workshops across Aotearoa. Why?

Because I’ve experienced emotional abuse.

I remember having to ask for permission to hang out with friends. I was hassled about what I chose to wear. I hardly used social media, because liking a post from a friend seemed to cause an argument. I wouldn’t even think about talking to a guy – because I was told that was disrespectful. I once re-negotiated my worth for what I thought was love.

Now, I’m the older sister to thousands of Kiwi women.

The older sister I needed when I was younger. A voice that says slow down, to not rush into a relationship. To build a healthy relationship with yourself first. Every woman has a purpose to serve, so why the hell would we let someone get in our way?

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.

There’s a long line of silenced women behind me in my ancestry. Before I speak in front of an audience, I visualise bringing all those women out on stage to stand beside me. I speak for them. That’s why I can be composed - I’m carrying the weight of my tupuna, speaking for the voices of the silenced and being brave for those who didn’t get the same opportunity to stand against abuse. 

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.

 

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