"Ko te wahine te kaitiaki o te whare tangata." Women are the guardians of the house of humanity.
The central role of women in Maori society rests on their connection to Papatuanuku, the earth mother, the element from which all life emerges and is nourished.
The status of women (mana wahine) is pivotal to the spiritual, emotional and cultural wellbeing of Maori society, and is inherent in a woman's role as te whare tangata, the carrier of future generations.
The sacred powers of te whare tangata are immortalised in the ritual of the pito, whereby the whenua (afterbirth) is returned to Papatuanuku to retain the link with the land that provides sustenance for the coming generations.
In Maori tradition, the status of women is considered equal to the status of men. Te ure tārewa (honouring the line of male ancestors) is balanced by te whare tangata (nuturing future generations) (Source)
Without women in the Maori culture it would be impossible to have meetings, greet other tribes, and have families. Maori women are often over-looked but they play a key point of the culture with dance and song. The art of poi, which was first a strengthening tool for the men, the women turned it into a dance, a very beautiful one. Women brought new ideas to the culture.
VIDEO Traditional Haka
A hongi is a traditional Māori greeting in New Zealand. It is done by pressing one's nose and forehead (at the same time) to another person at an encounter.
It is used at traditional meetings among Māori people and on major ceremonies and serves a similar purpose to a formal handshake in modern western culture, and indeed a hongi is often used in conjunction with one.
In the hongi, the ha (or breath of life), is exchanged and intermingled.
Through the exchange of this physical greeting, one is no longer considered manuhiri (visitor) but rather tangata whenua, one of the people of the land. For the remainder of one's stay one is obliged to share in all the duties and responsibilities of the home people. In earlier times, this may have meant bearing arms in times of war, or tending crops, such as kumara (sweet potato).When Māori greet one another by pressing noses, the tradition of sharing the breath of life is considered to have come directly from the gods.
In Māori legend, woman was created by the gods moulding her shape out of the earth. The god Tāne (meaning male) embraced the figure and breathed into her nostrils. She then sneezed and came to life. Her name was Hineahuone (earth formed woman). (Source: Wikipedia)