Shila Nair, a counsellor and Senior Advisor with Shakti NZ, has been conferred the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2019.

Ms Nair is involved with Shakti NZ, a non-profit community organisation serving migrant and refugee women of Asian, African and Middle Eastern origin. Her 17-year involvement in the organisation has seen women being supported to overcome the barriers that come with migration and inter-generational bonds of cultural oppression.

She started her career as a volunteer, then moved to manage crisis services, and later became Shakti’s National Coordinator. Ms Nair, along with Quentin Hix, joined the Criminal Justice Summit last year to participate in discussions providing multiple perspectives from people affected by the system, interest groups and academics.

“Shakti NZ has been in consonance with that objective, and I have been working towards the cause of ending all forms of violence against women and children, particularly against those that arise from structural, social and cultural sanction. Besides servicing women and families through casework and counselling, I have also played a crucial part in Shakti’s advocacy for changes in laws and policies that affect immigrant communities in New Zealand.

“I would like to dedicate this honour to the communities I work with, and I accept this honour on behalf of our ethnic migrant and refugee communities, especially those who are rendered most vulnerable,” Ms Nair told The Indian Weekender.

Concerning her work for the community, Ms Nair says there has been an impact in the communities and more awareness about issues suffered by ethnic migrants.

“I have felt the winds of change within our communities and am glad that there is greater awareness of the specific issues that haunt our communities, and the desire in general to overcome them. I continue to remain optimistic. It is important that we continue to challenge ourselves and our communities if we are to grow and create a better environment for the generations to follow,” Ms Nair said.

Following the terror attacks in Christchurch on March 15, Shakti has taken the lead in hosting a Trans-Tasman Conference to highlight racism and discrimination in our countries and work towards establishing a Trans-Tasman Campaign to overcome.

“I hope that the recognition that some of us have received over the years will encourage others to get into community work. There are enough causes we can affiliate with, and we need to choose at least one and commit ourselves to make the desired change within our communities,” Ms Nair added.