24 November 2021 at 2:59 pm

Indigenous women leaders see international education as key to the future

International education is a vital tool for developing leadership skills, say indigenous women leaders from the United States, Chile and New Zealand.

They were speaking at a new webinar in the Kōrerorero: Conversations that Matter series – organised by Education New Zealand’s North America and Latin America teams in partnership with The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The webinar attracted almost 800 academics, international education professionals, government officials and businesspeople, with 275 joining live and the rest registered to view it later. The event drew on the Chronicle’s large subscription base to reach an audience of high-ranking academics in the Americas and attracted an all-star panel of indigenous women leaders in education and business.

Dr Alina Namuncura Rodenkirchen of Chile’s Universidad Católica de Temuco explained the challenges faced by Mapuche women, whose accessibility issues are amplified by rural living and lead to exclusion.

“Education is the key to face all these obstacles. International education can show opportunities, can give us a bigger picture, can empower us,” she said.

“At the same time, we can look back. When we are far away, we can cherish our people and feel what is missing, feel where we want to go back, to support and to collaborate.”

Indigenous entrepreneur and consultant Rachel Petero shared her experiences as a Māori wāhine connecting with the Mapuche.

“Think of entrepreneurship (as a way) to own your own self-determination, your sovereignty. We need to decolonise entrepreneurship and how we do that is (by) connecting,” she said.

International education is even more important now than ever before because it gives us hope. … It takes us out of this global pandemic mindset that we are stuck in and gives us hope to develop ourselves and move forward.”

Carrie L. Billy, President and CEO of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, said indigenous people had a special perspective on international education.

“The cultural and societal responsibilities of women are the centre of our collective ability to maintain balance and harmony and wellbeing within the community. When that's out of balance, everything else follows,” she said.

Associate Professor Ella Henry, Senior Lecturer in International Business, Strategy and Entrepreneurship at Auckland University of Technology, said international education could help to turn the tide for disadvantaged communities.

“International education is very important, particularly for addressing some of the discrimination and disadvantage that indigenous communities and indigenous women face. Indigenous education is an important vehicle. What is also strengthened by that process is our indigenous identity,” she said.

Dr Henry, of Ngātikahu ki Whangaroa, Ngāti Kuri and Te Rārawa, addressed non-indigenous educators interested in supporting indigenous international education, asking them to “learn to walk with us, alongside us, as allies.”

Watch the full webinar episode – Kōrerorero: International Education and Developing Indigenous Women’s Leadership.

The Chronicle of Higher Education – Education New Zealand’s webinar partner for the event – has an audience of 10 million higher education employees and 1,600 organisational subscribers to its web content and publications.

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