Topics: Health, Kapa Haka

#SmearYourMea, Dear!

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Renowned kapa haka performer Talei Morrison is the voice behind the campaign Smear Your Mea

She's on a mission to encourage women to get themselves checked.

Talei says, "You know (my family) they're my absolute rock, when times were dark, when I did cry they cried with me, when I was angry they were angry with me, and my family and my friends have just been absolutely wonderful and they've just allowed me to live my journey in all its rawness, and all its ugliness and they've just been there right alongside me all the way."

Te Matarae i Ōrehu performer was diagnosed with stage 4 cervical cancer in August 2017.

"If you look down the kapa haka ranks and you tell every third woman to step out, they are the population that's going to die from cervical cancer, if they don't sort themselves out and if they don't get their 'mea' (cervix) smeared."

It is estimated that approximately 160 women a year are diagnosed with cervical cancer in New Zealand each year. After Morrison was diagnosed with cervical cancer she started a campaign called 'Smear your Mea' to encourage all haka groups to have cervical smears.

She says, "We want to make sure that we get some action behind this traction, we want to make sure that woman are making those phone calls to their doctors and to their whare hauora, getting their appointments along with their hair appointments, their lash appointments, their spray tan for their regional competition, we hope that they're getting their smear done as well."

Having regular cervical smears can reduce a woman's risk of developing cervical cancer by 90 percent.

"We need to talk about it in our communities, we can't see the word vagina, teke, tara, smear your mea, we can't see that and cringe, otherwise we're not addressing it, otherwise we're not looking after ourselves," Talei says candidly.

The campaign is calling all senior haka performers to get their smears done before their regional competitions, the first starting next weekend.