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New Zealand Mormon Women Discuss Leadership and Making a Difference

Four New Zealand women — all leaders in their Latter-day Saint (Mormon) congregations — sat down together to discuss their experiences in the Church and what it takes to make a positive difference at home, at church and in their communities.  
 
Melanie Riwai-Couch is a national public affairs adviser and national media spokesperson for the Church in New Zealand. Professionally, Melanie is the principal of a Māori immersion school in Christchurch and is also completing her PhD in education. Melanie believes that opportunities for leadership are available every day to women who are LDS (Latter-day Saints).  
 
While there are gender differences in some of the roles that men and women have in the Church she believes that the daily focus of individual members should be on Christ-like service wherever opportunities present. Gender is not a factor in her calling, as she oversees Church public affairs councils across the country comprising both men and women.
 

“As a woman I will never serve as a bishop. My husband is a bishop. I would like to think that I sustain and support him in his calling as much as he does me in mine. Both of our leadership roles are important.” 
 
In her professional life Ruth Hamon is a human resources manager. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints she has had many leadership roles, including as the president of the Relief Society, responsible for the leadership of more than 150 women aged 18 and over. Her responsibilities included helping set the strategic plan for the entire congregation, organizing lessons, activities, community outreach and service to individuals and families.  
 
From week to week her focus is on helping individuals and families. She says she counsels with other leaders in her congregation, identifying the needs of each individual. In this process, “all voices, male and female, have value.” 
 
As the president of the Young Women’s programme, Naomi Waka oversees the delivery of her congregational youth programme including supervision of teachers and assistants. Together they provide youth activity nights, offer pastoral care and assistance to access services that the young women may require for their personal, educational or emotional wellbeing. Naomi also provides opportunities for the young women in her congregation to develop their talents and leadership skills.
 
“As women, we have such a role to impact future families and generations,” Naomi says. “Women can walk with their heads held high. They are great leaders.” 
  
Laura Hunter holds two university degrees and serves on her local school board. At Church on Sundays she teaches young children. Laura’s focus is on helping each child learn that she or he is a child of God and that they have great potential to learn, grow and live happy lives. She teaches children that they can make choices that will bring them happiness as they choose to follow the example and teachings of Jesus Christ.
 
Speaking of the way Latter-day Saint congregations work, she says,“Everyone supports one another. We are all volunteers. Sometimes we are leading from the front and at other times we are supporting others. Both roles are important.”
  
There are remarkable Latter-day Saint women leading and contributing in around 30,000 congregations worldwide. Each does so in her own unique way, improving the lives of others in the process.


 

 

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