Groups of up to 15 women are taking on Wahine Ora's 12-week course toward empowerment, leadership and wellbeing "to help them get their mojos back".

The course is for any woman who has been affected by any form of abuse, said Kiritahi Firmin who put the programme together after her own experience in "the depth of despair".

She says she has experienced everything she teaches - she got through her own low patch and now has a passion to help others.

The Wahine Ora programme takes place each Friday for 12 weeks, from 9.30am to 2pm, in Whanganui's Education House at 249 Victoria Ave and is facilitated by Pene Patea. Three intakes are planned this year.

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Mrs Firmin, who facilitates the course in Palmerston North, said the facilitators were volunteers, and the programme had had some funding through Adult Community Education Aotearoa. That funding was applied for in partnership with Training For You.

Women can be referred to the programme by Child, Youth and Family, the Corrections Department, Family Works, Women's Refuge or Work & Income - or they can apply for themselves.

The programme goes through stages - first for women to understand who they are, heal their past and make decisions.

"We help our women to heal through talking about their traumatic events."

It gives them strategies to deal with domestic violence and suicide and introduces them to helping agencies. In the seventh week they get positive and learn about gardening, rongoa (traditional medicine), style and beauty.

"We have one full day of showing our women how to style and use make-up and dress, to make ourselves feel better," Mrs Firmin said.

Finally there's preserving and budgeting skills, meeting inspirational women and setting goals.

"Then they graduate, but the journey isn't over there because we get together as a sisterhood."

The programme is not anti-men, she said.

"Our men are so broken. We're not there to get back at the men - in fact, I would like to restore our families for the sake of our children. "This is what our mothers used to do, as wahine toa, with people like Jo Maniapoto and Sister Makareta (Tawaroa)."

The programme falls under the umbrella of the Kimiora Trust, which Mrs Firmin founded.

The trust also has a national suicide intervention programme, runs Maori antenatal classes and teaches permaculture.