Vanisa Dhiru – the Wellington-based Kiwi-Indian champion of gender equality was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to community and gender rights as part of the New Year Honours on December 31, 2020.

Born locally in Palmerston North to a Gujarati migrant family from India, Vanisa has taken a plunge in advocacy and capacity building work, both locally and nationally, from very early in her youth and have built an influential profile with a long list of credible work in the realm of community support behind her.

Vanisa has been a strong advocate across gender, race, employment, leadership, and age equity.

She has served as Chief Executive for Volunteering New Zealand, Executive Director for the 20/20 Trust, and was National President of the National Council of Women of New Zealand (NCWNZ) from 2017 to 2019.

As National President of NCWNZ, she led and guided the Gender Equal NZ campaign, increased the diversity of the national membership, led the Suffrage 125 work programme, and raised the profile of NCWNZ in the media. She led the NCWNZ delegation at the United Nation’s 70th session of the CEDAW Monitoring Committee in 2018, where she chaired the New Zealand NGO meeting to advocate for gender rights.

Vanisa Dhiru (Picture Courtesy: ManawatuNZ)

She has volunteered on various charity boards including chairing the Inspiring Stories Trust and the YWCA of Greater Wellington. She was a Trustee of Trade Aid Wellington Trust and campaigned to make Wellington a Fairtrade city in 2009.

She holds Commissioner roles with the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO and the Library and Information Advisory Commission. Ms Dhiru has been a member of various advisory panels, including for the Ministry of Social Development, Ministry for Women, Inland Revenue and the Wellington School of Business and Government at Victoria University.

Acknowledging the recognition and the accompanying accolades flooding in soon after the announcement of the Queen’s Honours on the eve of New Year Vanisa told the Indian Weekender, “I am honoured and deeply humbled.”

She also reiterated to continue to work with an enhanced passion and rigour to address towards the cause of some of the raging inequalities in our societies and contribute in making Aotearoa a better place for one and all.