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A meeting, a personal journey, and the strengthening of mother-daughter relationships.

Kia ora tatou. Ko Penny Stevens toku ingoa and I am Founding Director of The Liberty of Being Me Foundation.

I had the privilege of attending the International Business and Professional Women's Congress 2008 in Mexico City. Sitting in a workshop of four speakers addressing the issue of 'Say No to Violence', I was completely in awe of the last speaker, Dr Christina Berton, who turned the whole subject on its head and presented to her audience the need to strengthen and promote the beauty in each of us: True Self Esteem.

For me personally, it was the first time I felt and accepted my own beauty. This was so profound it changed the way I looked at myself. It gave me a deep appreciation of the role of motherhood in every way, especially my own mother.

Motherhood is the most important role in life, starting with mother earth. The influence mothers have on their children, and especially girls, can determine how well daughters do in life. Sons need to be nurtured to treat women with respect, so that women allow them to be supportive. When women become aware and accept their unique beauty and then nurture themselves, the whole whānau/family/society strengthens.

Following up from this amazing experience, with the support of my husband Lee and the Rua and Clarrie Stevens Charitable Trust, we invited Christina in 2009 to visit Aotearoa New Zealand and organised a successful tour of Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin to share her message of real self-esteem.

Dr Christina returned in 2010 and gifted us her Amara Foundation Mother/Daughter workshop, training myself and four others to facilitate workshops here. The Liberty of Being Me Foundation was launched!

Since then, I have worked with my evolving team to facilitate the Mother/Daughter workshop in schools and diverse communities in the Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland Region. To date we have reached over 1,000 women and girls, and are planning to double this number by the end of 2021.

On 10 March 2020 we were blessed to be able to celebrate our 10th anniversary with Christina as our guest speaker. For me, it was a complete joy to have her with us to celebrate. We will always be grateful that this happened just before lockdown and Christina was able to return to Mexico City arriving safely and well. (For those who are interested, you can view Dr Christina Berton's presentation at our website.)

Going forward, under the leadership of our new Director Julie Orchard, we will continue our Mother/Daughter workshops and broaden our events to cater for women of all ages - thus allowing mothers with sons or those who don’t have children of their own, to participate. Covid-19 has further highlighted how essential our programmes are to help challenged communities. Our work is focused on what is right with us, rather than what is wrong with us.

We are all uniquely beautiful and we will continue to celebrate that!

Penny Stevens

Penny is the Founding Director of The Liberty of Being Me Foundation, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in March 2020. With her husband Lee they have supported the arts, access to education, youth development, migrants and refugees in New Zealand, and many more causes for almost 50 years through the Rua and Clarrie Stevens Charitable Trust, making a huge difference to a huge number of lives.


Photo of Penny and Dr Christina Berton at The Liberty of Being Me's 10th anniversary celebrations.