Girl bosses who brunch is a series which seeks to celebrate the achievements of incredible Pacific women. All of my chats with the various girl bosses take place in a café and we discuss anything and everything ranging from their journey to success to how many people they pashed on the weekend (jokes, kind of). It is my hope that in sharing stories about successful women, this will inspire others to do better and be better.
This is how I found myself in St Heliers Café and Bistro. Sitting across from me was the amazing Moeata Keil-Moore. Our Girl Bosses Who Brunch Series had officially begun.
So who is Moeata Keil-Moore? Or so eloquently put by a friend of mine that saw her for the first time, ‘Farrrr. Who’s that hot South American chick?’ Hot, yes. South American, no.
She is a young Samoan woman in her twenties, a mother of two children, a wife, multiple scholarship winner, a University of Auckland graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree, a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Sociology (with First Class Honours) and recently, a Masters degree with First Class Honours. If that wasn’t enough, she has also recently been appointed as a lecturer in the University of Auckland’s Sociology department.
Moeata was raised in Samoa and moved to New Zealand when she finished High School to attend the University of Auckland. In her final year of her Bachelor of Arts degree, she fell pregnant with her first child. While most people would see that as a setback, Moeata saw it as an opportunity. An opportunity to grow, learn and ultimately, thrive.
Stories about how young Pacific women fall pregnant and are subsequently unable to pursue their desired careers are tales, which are unfortunately all too familiar. Moeata, determined not to be another statistic, has always believed that it is never impossible to chase your dreams. ‘I thought to myself, oh shux, I don’t know how I’m going to have a newborn baby, a 5 year old and finish my Master’s thesis. I just don’t know. Then I thought, actually, that isn’t my story. My story isn’t, I had a baby and then that’s it. I don’t like that whole idea where people think, ‘ok you had kids, it’s over’ because you can do it all and do it really well, in a deserving way, not in an arrogant way’.
Moeata’s journey, along with many other successful Pacific women, highlights the significance of building a generation of women that are empowered to challenge societal expectations and norms. This is what attracted Moeata to the topics studied in Sociology. Moeata’s main interest is in social policies and it’s effects on Pacific communities, particularly women.
Discussing the processes involved in policy-making, Moeata says, ‘Before they implement policies, we need to ask ourselves, what research are these policies based on? Is it based on a politician’s view on how the world is, or is it based on actual research? And who does the research? Because who conducts the research really shapes the outcome. Depending on where the research comes from, it shapes your perceived notions of what’s actually happening’.
‘There’s a lot of research on Maori and Pacific families but I always find that it’s focus is on negative outcomes of Maori and Pacific families. It’s on high smoking rates, poverty and so on. But it’s not actually addressing why these issues exist. Why do we have unequal outcomes? How is this inequality being perpetuated? They’re treating it as an individual issue. Not a structural, cyclical issue.’
Moeata’s Master’s thesis addressed some of these concerns. She wrote her thesis on Pacific mothers’ experiences of family obligations, money and child support. ‘With all the research on child support, there’s never been a Pacific or ethnic approach to it. It’s always just based on the taken for granted assumption of ‘the family’, but it doesn’t consider how different ethnic groups have different approaches to family. It’s not thinking about family practices or how family obligations are organized very differently in Pacific families and then the consequences of imposing this breadwinner family onto Pacific families. So it’s like a one size fits all but of course, one size does not fit all’.
The University of Auckland lecturer’s resistance to applying the one size fits all theory in her academic work, is also a resistance which she lives out in her own personal life. ‘I love having different hats’, she tells me. ‘It adds a sense of value to what I do. I’m a really strong advocate for mothers who work because as odd as it sounds, I feel like I am a better mother when I am working. I feel like I don’t take my mothering role for granted. I’m a strong advocate for balance. Having something that you value, I believe, makes you a better person’.
Although she moved to a new country, became a mother at 23 and had to put her studies on hold, Moeata persevered against all odds. Moeata is currently enjoying working as a University of Auckland lecturer, lecturing a stage two Sociology paper and is looking forward to potentially beginning her journey to complete a PhD in the near future.
We wish you all the best Moeata! This story (and series) is for all the women chasing dreams, breaking barriers and re-defining what it means to be a brown woman in our world today. I’m looking forward to brunching with more Girl Bosses and sharing their stories with you all. Stay tuned and inspired.