Community leader Jennifer Khan-Janif has been working towards the betterment of the refugee and migrant communities for over two decades in New Zealand. For her years of service towards the community, the New Zealand government has bestowed her with Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) title in the New Year Honours List released earlier this month.
Jennifer Khan-Janif co-founded the Umma Trust in 2003, which initially undertook development work in Iraq, and which diversified in 2008 to provide social services and support for refugee and migrant communities, particularly economically and socially disadvantaged Muslim women, children and families in the Auckland region.
Mrs Khan-Janif, a fourth-generation Fiji born Indian migrated to New Zealand in 1989 and joined the public sector in 1990 and since has worked in various roles with a focus on supporting community development, identity, ethnic affairs and early intervention programmes on positive parenting and family violence. Mrs Khan-Janif is also a poet and creative arts writer who finds her inspirations from migration stories and experiences of her ancestors from Afghanistan, British-India, Guyana and the Solomon Islands.
Mrs Khan-Janif regards her parents as her role model as humanitarians who are committed to social justice and race relations.
"My parents are from humble sugarcane farming background, and I grew in a household which was culturally and religiously diverse. My father is of Pathan ancestry, and my mother mixed ethnic Indian and Melanesian heritage- so the values of service, volunteering and giving back to the community was inculcated in me right from my childhood.
Mrs Khan-Janif is a Justice of Peace appointed in 1998 and has served on the Boards of Umma Trust, Shakti Community Council, Fiji Women's Group, and is currently on the Advisory Group for the University of Auckland's Centre for Research for Asian and Ethnic Minorities. She was elected to the Board of the Africa New Zealand Business Council, to help promote African business opportunities with New Zealand companies and vice versa.
"By working alongside former refugee communities for the past three decades, I have watched
intergenerational advancement in the areas of leadership development, participation in civic life,
academic achievement and excelling in their professional careers," Mrs Khan-Janif said.
"This has enabled in particular for the youth to give back to their communities and participate in the wider community which highlights the values seen in collective cultures," she added.
Mrs Khan-Janif has presented academic papers on community development, family violence and youth development at conferences in New Zealand and internationally. She works as a Senior Advisor for the Ministry of Social Development's E Tu Whanau programme, where she holds responsibilities in the Asian, Migrant and Refugee Communities portfolio, focusing on projects addressing the elimination of all forms of violence.
"I am humbled and honoured to have received the New Zealand Order of Merit. It is a privilege to be categorized amongst fellow New Zealanders who are doing fantastic working across Aotearoa New Zealand.
"This award would not have been possible without the support and encouragement of many people. My award is a collective success, and I share this with them all," Mrs Khan-Janif said.