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Te Araroa: Teaching while tramping

If you or someone you know is out hiking Te Araroa this summer, you might strike it lucky and stumble upon Imogen Coxhead - empowerment self-defence kaiako/instructor out in the wild.

She’s been out in the backcountry since 5 December 2022 hiking the 3000 km trail on her Hikoi Whakamana - Walk for Empowerment, starting at the bottom of Te Waipounamu/South Island and working her way to the top of Te Ika-a-Maui/North Island, raising funds for and awareness of Kia Haumaru - Personal Safety Education.

So far she’s raised almost $5000 dollars towards this NGO, enough to teach nearly 200 students empowerment self-defence and change their lives forever.

Long days of walking through difficult terrain is not something that fazes Imogen - she’s taken on this personal challenge with gusto and has already completed the South Island segment of the trail in under 2 months, navigating through thick fog, climbing steep passes, slithering over alpine snow and wading down rocky river beds. She has enjoyed meeting other walkers along the way and teaching impromptu self-defence sessions to women she meets in the huts dotted along the trail.

Imogen says, " Te Araroa is not without its challenges, such as high mountain passes, route finding and navigation and keeping cool over the scorching summer days. Facing and overcoming these challenges has been incredibly empowering for me. I’m curious now to see what the North Island section is like!"

When asked about her motivation behind undertaking the trail Imogen responds, " Its all in the name! Hikoi Whakamana is not only a personal challenge and bucket list item for myself to test my resilience and mental fortitude, but an opportunity to spotlight and uplift the incredible work Kia Haumaru does.

I’ve been working as a personal safety instructor in schools with Kia Haumaru for 10 years and have seen first-hand the positive impact the course has on school-aged girls. The marked difference in their sense of self and their confidence levels before and after the course is stark, and when uplifting self-empowerment education is taught alongside the physical self-defence strategies it is incredible to witness the change in the students. You can see them stepping into their strength and internal power in front of your eyes!"

Imogen continues, "The challenges young girls and women face in today’s world are varied and complex. Many of the students have already experienced violence in their lives, more often than not at the hands of someone they know. Our courses provide a safe space for them to process what they have experienced, and equip them with the tools to start their healing journey, along with physical, mental and emotional strategies to keep them safe from harm in the future."

Kia Haumaru (formerly Women's Self Defence Network - Wahine Toa) is a nationwide, fully accredited NGO working to promote a safe and respectful society free from violence by bringing free and accessible personal safety empowerment and self-defence education to girls and women throughout Aotearoa.

Alongside teaching physical self-defence techniques and consent education, these courses fundamentally challenge gender based stereotypes, redefine students’ relationships with their wider whanau, and work to build a stronger sense of trust and autonomy/mana motuhake within themselves and their communities.

Updates and donations towards Imogen’s hikoi can be found at

To learn more about Kia Haumaru’s awe-inspiring mahi, visit or follow us on IG @kia.haumaru or FB @KiaHaumaru

Origianlly published on Voxy here

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