With long black hair and a soft voice, Irene isn't that kind of girl you immediately take to be a fighter. But that's exactly what she is. She's fighting to get emotional abuse recognised as a legitimate area of domestic abuse through her ground-breaking charity, Prepair NZ.
In the past two years, Prepair NZ has been represented on the TEDx Wellington Stage, Festival for the Future and Otago Silver lines Festival. They've also worked alongside It's Not OK, local police, youth groups and local councils. Irene and her team's work is about educating young girls about the signs of emotional abuse. "What" you may be wondering, "is emotional abuse even?"
You may, in fact, have experienced emotional abuse, and not have realised it. Prepair say the following: "Emotional abuse can make you feel like there is no way out or that without your partner you are nothing. An emotional abusers aim is to chip away at your feelings of self-worth and independence. There are no physical marks yet it can have a huge impact on your self-esteem.Not to be confused with love. Emotional abuse is not fair or acceptable. You and your loved ones are worthy of love and belonging - always." For more interesting and impactful information, check out their website.
Because of the lack of recognition about emotional abuse, and the impacts it can have, Irene and her team at Prepair recently partnered up to help them continue to reach more people with major retailer Glassons who are distributing her #TrueLove t-shirts that are made by AS Colour independently. Designed by Kate Key, they are both subtle, stylish and empowering. You can get your own here.
I wanted to find out more about what led to this amazing collaboration, so I met Irene on a blustery day on the waterfront of Wellington to find out how she got the attention of the House of G.
How did she get here?
Irene is a small town girl. She was born in Otaki and raised in Foxton. Her mother brought up the family of 7 brothers and sisters to Irene and her father was a handyman in the area.
Irene moved to greater Wellington region after school finished and fell into banking. She ended up looking after BNZ in Upper Hutt for several few years before realising she needed something more. "I came home from work one day and was approaching my 10th year in banking. I knew I always needed to do something more."
When did she decide to start Prepair?
Irene realised she wanted to share information about emotional abuse to educate girls about self-love and emotional abuse. "One of the first things I did was to email Jacinda Ardern. She was very supportive and put me in touch with the domestic abuse spokesperson at Labour. They, in part, spurred me on to pursue my dream" Irene says.
How did she turn it into a full-time gig?
Irene had been running Prepair on the side of working but it was only when she did a programme for 3 months about developing a business did she realised how much more she could give to Prepair by dedicating an entire working week. Now bases herself at Biz Dojo to work on her passion. "My partner and I own a business, and that's our main source of day-to day-income. I volunteer for Prepair because its a charity" Irene explains.
How did Prepair NZ come to partner with Glassons?
Irene worked with a project team to discover how they could reach more people. They created a campaign to spread the message more widely - resulting in the 'True Love Is' campaign. They decided to create a tee shirt to spread the message of #TrueLoveIs but needed someone else on board with the distribution to reach as many people as possible. "Glassons was our blue sky idea. We worked with a user experience designer to create a box to show them the stories about Prepair and each layer they opened revealed another story. At the end of the box, was our t-shirt. And said yes!" Irene explains.
Irene and her team worked with Glassons to get their orders right, starting with 1000 tees. "Because we are bringing the tees ourselves, we get to keep 100% of the profits to put towards our workshops educating girls about emotional abuse," she says.
Only a few days in, they'd sold over a quarter to the tee shirts. "Our audience and Glasson's audience is the same. It's a great initiative for both of us. Our work is about having a conversation that doesn't happen about setting healthy boundaries for yourself and taking time to consider what a healthy relationship looks like. It's about empowering women to think first before getting into relationships. Love is a funny thing and we just fall into it. We're trying to re-define what it means to be in a relationship."
Who's been sporting the Prepair #TrueLoveIs Tee around Wellington?
. So in love with this design by @studio.bon 😍 . . Our Rose Tees are available in @glassons stores nationwide. But, they're more than a fashion statement . . They're a way to show your support to young women in Aotearoa and back @prepairnz to deliver education about healthy relationships, emotional abuse and self-love in schools x