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Women at home in Tinui

By Emily Norman
[email protected]

Female firefighters in Tinui “really feel” for women who have battled sexism in the fire service, something that would “never happen” on their watch.

“And someone would get a few rude words if it ever did happen,” said one woman.

Having always been treated as “one of the boys” at the station, Tinui’s crew leader, a woman named Piki, said in the five years she had volunteered with the Tinui Fire Party, she had never felt like she was treated differently because of her gender.

“Our men aren’t like that, in fact our men are probably too scared to treat us differently,” she said.

She believes brigades who were not embracing diversity were robbing themselves of a truly dynamic team.

She was furious when she read a previous Wairarapa Times-Age story that revealed some women in New Zealand were not treated as equals in their brigades.

“I really feel for those women,” she said.

“Everyone brings something different to the team.

“For me I’m out with a whole crew, I slip into that mothering mode.

“In my mind I’m looking out for everybody, which is something that men don’t typically do.

“They put their heads down and work, but you need all of those roles for a successful team.”

Piki has lived in Tinui for the past 20 years and believes sexism does not show its face in rural brigades like hers because her community is so tight-knit.

“Everyone in this community knows each other,” she said.

“We’re not like the cities where the volunteers probably only come together when there’s a callout.”

Piki joined the fire party about five years ago when they were looking for volunteer firefighters and supporters.

“I originally came along as a supporter and I got handed a uniform at the meeting instead, it was amazing.”

Donna Schofield is not only another woman firefighter at Tinui, but she’s also the fire truck driver, a position which Piki said was usually considered “the mens’ world”.

“I remember going into town and talking to the rural guys at the station when I wanted to join,” Mrs Schofield said.

“And they were really excited about a woman applying.”

“Everyone has their own strengths and if we can ban them all together, it’s the perfect team.

Mrs Schofield is “quite a new recruit”, having signed up at the start of this year.

“My husband is a rural fireman, but he’s out on the farm all the time,” Mrs Schofield said.

“I’m the one that usually hears the siren go off… so one day I just thought, I’m going to be a firefighter because I’m more available than he is”.

Mrs Schofield has a daughter who is looked after by her mother-in-law whenever there’s a callout, “because she’s just over the road”.

“It takes a whole community to be able to do this, like if I didn’t have support for someone to look after our daughter, then I couldn’t come.

“But because we’re doing this for the community, it just makes sense for everyone to band in and help.”

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