Hannah Buckland has already improved her self-confidence after just a few weeks with Kōhine Māia. Photo: Jonty Dine

Empowering young women through sport

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Making friends does not come easy for Hannah Buckland.

The 12-year-old has social pragmatic communication disorder which means she struggles talking to people she doesn’t know.

However, thanks to a new initiative, Hannah is gaining both self-confidence and new friends.

Kōhine Māia, run by Sport Tasman, is aimed at empowering young women aged 12-18 through sport.

The subsidised programme allows members to experience sports such as waka ama, skateboarding, mountain biking and stand-up paddleboarding.

Hannah joined Kōhine Māia two months ago after her mum spotted a post on Facebook advertising a free skateboarding lesson.

“Once I went to that, I wanted to keep coming.”

She says she loves that it is “just girls getting out doing stuff you would not normally do”.

“I don’t get out much good to get to know people and make new friends. I struggle to know what to say, but it has already helped me a lot with talking and not being so quiet.”

Kōhine Māia facilitator Ash Cowper says they have looked to move the focus away from competitive sport and onto enjoyment.

“We want to give opportunities to girls that can feed that confidence, fun factor and passion for something they may not have tried before which feeds through to their day-to-day life.”

She says a lot of girls are finding that they are connecting through these activities and making new friends.

“They are so much more relaxed and are taking ownership about what they want to do, it is continuously evolving based on what the girls want to see and do.”

Ash says it is a very fulfilling role.

“It’s about us limiting barriers as much as possible which is something close to my heart and seeing it come to fruition and being able to nurture those things that are so important at a young age is so cool.”

The group also has a four-day camp in Rotoiti in January.

“I’m pretty excited about that,” says Hannah.

“You get to do heaps of stuff and help the community, really fun and you learn so much not just about sport but life skills and history about New Zealand. We went on a waka and learnt about where Māori lived and what they did.”

She says the environment is an incredibly nurturing one.

“It’s really safe and comfortable.”

To find out more about Kōhine Māia go to https://www.facebook.com/kohinemaia/