AMMA is a social and educational not-for-profit organisation aimed at empowering and helping migrants in Aotearoa New Zealand through engagements, events, and free classes. The acronym AMMA has many meanings. The first is that “amma” is a term that many people from different nationalities and ethnicities used to refer to their mother or to a mother figure. The organisation strives to protect, guide and care for all of its participants, members and partners, and act as the mother figure. “Amma” also implies a female figure. All the founders are female, and we set this up to help other migrant women. The “4” in Aotearoa Migrants 4 Migrants Academy also represents our 4 guiding principles:
4 (for) Advocacy
AMMA advocates for the welfare of migrant women as a significant number of female migrants from developing countries who come to New Zealand as refugees or partners of migrant workers are often economically inactive in New Zealand for several reasons such as low academic qualifications and poor English language skills. Economically inactive women are in danger of domestic abuse (economic, psychological, and/or physical abuse). Empowering these women are essential for their health and safety, and their overall wellbeing.
While one of AMMA main goals is to provide equal opportunities to its migrants and refugee women through educational and employment initiatives, it also aims to advocate for equal opportunities by raising social awareness. Equality means to start on the same line, and the first step to equality is the recognition and acceptance of non-European migrants in Aotearoa New Zealand.
However, AMMA recognises that equality will not be enough. “Starting on the same line” does not consider other factors such as privilege or lack of, systemic bias, structural discrimination, unforeseen circumstances etc. It does not take into account what happens in the middle. For example, two students may start off in the same school. However, the former may find themselves having to work after school hours to help support the family due to a family member losing their job, illness in the family or death, and potentially even leaving school early to work which cuts the economic opportunity attached to higher qualifications. Meanwhile, the latter is able to enjoy their youth and went on to further their studies at a university, graduating with a degree which leads to a high-income and stable employment. Both students started on the same line, in the same school but circumstances beyond their control will ultimately lead to different outcomes. Equity has the goal of providing everyone with the full range of opportunities and benefits to lead them to the same finish line. Our long-term goal is to see an Aotearoa where everyone, regardless of ethnicity, language, socioeconomic status, gender and background is able to reach their full potential and achieve equal outcomes.
Our goal is to provide an environment where migrants and refugees feel safe and at home in Aotearoa where everyone is our whanau. Through our initiatives, we aim to aid in the build of a truly united Aotearoa where people of all colours, language, religion, abilities, and genders are equals – not only on paper, but in practice.
The idea for AMMA was borne out of the founders’ personal experiences. As women from migrant backgrounds who have finally set roots in New Zealand, we understand first-hand how daunting and stressful it may be for migrants and refugees. The cultural, language, religious, dietary differences, to name a few, can be overwhelming. For some, these differences impede them from being self-sufficient and/or economically active. Through this initiative, we aim to forge a sense of belonging and equip the migrants with the relevant skills for them to successfully assimilate and integrate into Aotearoa, and to be self-sufficient.
In 2020, a weekly English class specially catered to migrant women from Nepal was set up and ran by AMMA's team of volunteers. The goal of this programme is to equip these women with language, social and employment skills to help them successfully integrate into New Zealand’s society. Utilising connections within the Christchurch community, we coordinated the participants, secured locations, recruited volunteers, designed, delivered, and facilitated the programme at no cost. The volunteers are highly qualified; all are at least degree holders, mostly completing PhDs in Education and/or hold ESL qualifications, with solid experience in teaching and/or social services. The classes were held on Friday, 11a.m. to 1p.m. at Fendalton Library in Christchurch.
Due to the success of the programme and the great feedback from the participants, we have decided to continue and expand the programme. We have also opened up this programme to migrants from all communities. In addition to our classes on Friday mornings, we have added an evening class to cater to more women. It is held on Tuesdays from 6p.m. to 8p.m. We will continue running this programme on a pro-bono basis while we set up the organisation and apply for funding to ensure continuity for our current participants.
AMMA would like to thank our volunteers, Fendalton Library and Support for Development, who have empowered us to empower more women.
"Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today."