Smear your mea: Campaign encourages women to get cervical checks

Maori women are three times more likely to die from cervical cancer than Pakeha women. 

A major reason is because there is a reluctance to get checked but a group of cyclists is on a campaign to change this.

They're riding from Rotorua to the National Kapa Haka competition in Wellington encouraging women to "smear your mea".

Before the big ride, the cyclists pay their respects to their beloved Talei.

Talei Morrison was a renowned kapa haka performer who inspired many on the stage.

In 2017 she was diagnosed with stage 4 cervical cancer.

Incredibly, while fighting for her life, she poured her heart into a campaign "Smear Your Mea".

Talei died in June last year, aged 42.

Her mother, Sandy Morrison, says Talei wanted to encourage women to get checked. 

She says she's haunted by the thought that she had assumed her daughter was getting checked. But, she wasn't.

"I assumed because she was a very well educated woman, she had her masters in educational leadership, first class honours.

"Why on earth did she not get herself checked and that just keeps on haunting me."

Talei didn't get checked because she once had a bad experience with a doctor.

Studies show many Maori women feel embarrassed, or whakama, about having smear tests, or even talking about them.

To honour Talei's wish that all women competing in the National Kapa Haka competition in Wellington get checked, campaigners are cycling to the festival over six days - encouraging women to get smears. Health professionals will set up screening stations.

Former Maori Party leader Te Ururoa Flavell and actor Temuera Morrison - Talei's uncle - are behind the campaign.

"Taking Talei's cause to Wellington to Matatini and this is the start of their journey so incredible," Temuera says.

Talei's son, Tairoa Morrison, says performing next week will be incredibly difficult without his mum on stage.

"I just want to tell everyone it's alright to talk about this sort of stuff. We have to do it for our mothers for our sisters for our cousins, we have to encourage all our wahine, all our women," he says.