29 Mar Exceptional New Zealand 2016
Her proposition is about creating fashion from the heart. If fashion is thought of as mores, or the way things are done, then her RAW (Reclaim Another Woman) initiative is well and truly on brand.
The programme started out with matching mentors with women who have been victims of domestic violence. Like most things Annah has lent her hand to RAW has grown and has become a leader in a space requiring new thinking and doing.
Despite the best efforts of many, including high profile people wanting to make a difference, New Zealand’s record on domestic violence and child abuse makes for very unhappy reading.
“As a nation, we’re stuck in a ‘pattern of repeat’ that involves never reaching some of our most disadvantaged and destructive citizens. This ‘reach out’ requires an absolute passion, and an ability to drive this change, which are traits that all successful entrepreneurs will identify with. To alter the intergenerational outcomes and advance the children of the next generation, we had to get to the mothers.”
The immediate safety of children in danger is unquestionable but Annah is adamant real breakthroughs will only come when mothers have a clear purpose and direction for behavioural change. Evidence shows that children in dysfunctional families will go on replicating, and perpetuating, the environments they’ve been nurtured in. She also insists that government as a parent is not a viable option. Again, statistics support her claim.
Eighty-two percent of the men raised by the state as a parent are now in prison. Similarly 90% of the female children that are 21 years old today, who were raised with government intervention, are on a benefit. Forty percent of the families taking these children in are also on benefits.
“This is hardly a model that screams out success. If the country is really committed to changing the disruption and cost that this demographic causes then only programmes that achieve meaningful results should be on the agenda.”
More likely than not, she says, the initiatives that will achieve real stick-ability will involve partnerships between the public and private sectors. “This is not a job for the state in isolation. We need both the government and entrepreneurs working together to solve societal problems. The more capable, recognised and respected a person is in the world of business, the more likely they can gather the groundswell and provide a fast track to execute change.”
Unleashing the agents of change She insists the women that RAW works with, namely the mothers, will be the change agents we all so desperately seek.
“The only way forward is to break the cycle. We’ve only been in existence for two years yet successes to date show we have the potential to make massive inroads. We, and those that connect and advance us, have absolute belief in the success of the model.”
“The wonderful thing about RAW is that it has been established to meet a previously un-met societal need. We’re working to get life change through education and 360-degree ‘wrap around support’ for recidivist incarcerated women. As the founder I don’t profess to have any experience living with these life circumstances. I’ve have had to work hard to gain a real understanding of and get acceptance from the RAW women.”
“We come from polar opposite worlds – mine is one of capability, success, nurture, love and can-do whereas theirs can be feral and narcissistic. For them it is all about survival and acquiring material things that mean so much more for them than nurturing people.”
“RAW — it is the superstar in my life — when I work in this space I feel like I have superpowers!”
The fact Annah is bringing fresh thinking to an age-old problem is part of the formula for success. Again, there was nothing in her past that she needed to exorcise from her heart and soul.
“This is the power in the model in that we are not, and have never been, in a victim space. All we strive for is getting real outcomes for the women we work with. Given that I fund a large percentage of this work I need outcomes, otherwise what is the point. If something isn’t working we address, and apply, change to the way we support the women and monitor their behaviour.”
To keep on top of the process the model’s operational structure is tweaked regularly and sometimes even on a daily basis. Those driving the direction, says Annah, have had to become fast learners.
“We have to be as these women are smart. They’ve lived on their wits all of their lives. It takes time for them to trust us and for us to work out how best to advance them.”
Frocks that rock the world
Annah is no stranger to awards but this particular accolade gives her an extra level of satisfaction.
“Being recognised in this space has become a lot more important than so many of the other business awards that have been attached to me over the years.
This one truly acknowledges the difference that I’ve made, and will continue to make, to the fabric of New Zealand society. I have used the 25 years that attaches to my brand (both personal and fashion) to open doors, engage in conversations at the highest level, and to advance the change that this country so desperately seeks.”
While philanthropy is often associated with entrepreneurs she believes social entrepreneurship carries an extra weight of responsibility and expectation.
“They’re both important but philanthropy is all about giving whether that is money, time, product and services or connections. It is about doing good and helping those in crisis. Whereas socialentrepreneurship is about creating very real change to significant societal problems through new thinking, thought leadership and action.”
Through her own observations and personal reflections she believes the drive for change will alter a person’s life or perspective.
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