While the nation celebrates the 125th anniversary of the passing of the Electoral Act 1893 on September 19, which revolutionised women’s political rights, and consequently their social standing, The Indian Weekender continues to celebrate Kiwi-Indian women who have been doing something inspirational on a daily basis in their everyday endeavours.
As submitted earlier, the list of Kiwi-Indian women portrayed in this special issue, neither claims to be exhaustive nor selective in any manner conveying any particular preference, rather there is a complete acknowledgement that the list is just a tip of the iceberg when it comes to celebrating the Kiwi-Indian women. The intention is to inspire many others who are going through their own respective journeys of the pursuit of success.
Here are few more Kiwi-Indian women in the community who deserve a mention and accolades for their work and achievements.
Dr Pushpa Wood
Dr Pushpa Wood is the Director of the Westpac Massey Financial Education and Research Centre at the College of Business at Massey University. Dr Wood was appointed as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen’s 90th Birthday Honours List for 2016 for her services to financial literacy and interfaith relations. She is the first person in the country to be awarded such an honour for services to interfaith relations and financial literacy. She is also the first Indian women in the country to be awarded with such a high honour and in two areas.
Dr Wood has been acting as an expert witness for the crown in the area of Indian culture, customs and beliefs for over two decades. Among her many other key achievements in the last three decades of academic and community service in New Zealand, a recent one is especially notable – the launching of a survey which would capture the latent capability within Kiwi-Indian community that could possibly be ready or further developed if the popular demand of including the Hindi language in NZ curriculum is approved.
NZ Women MPs in the Parliamentary Library Reading Room 2018 (Picture: Facebook)
Dr Wood is regarded as one of the key academics involved in developing resources for financial literacy and building capability of financial literacy educators.
Tryst with equality
“I will be lying if I said that it was all plain sailing. My biggest challenge was to convince people that I do have brains, I have considerable experience to fall back on and have held highly paid and responsible job before I got to New Zealand. I came across two major reactions that still stay with me – ‘yes but that was all in India what about here’ or ‘I am afraid you are too qualified for this job and your manager might find you a threat’.
Things have improved a lot since 1980 but we still have a long way to go. There is a certain amount to ‘silent’ racism that exists in most professions whether we accept/acknowledge it or not. However, what impresses me most is the processes in place that we can use to speak against such discrimination should we choose to do so.”
What does women’s suffrage mean to you?
“For me personally it means
- Acknowledging and recognising the struggle of women of different generations.
- Acknowledging the fact that nothing has come easy to women and in each generation, they had to fight for their rights be it for their right education, clean water, access to vote to basic right to survive.
- A constant reminder that our struggles as women are not over yet. We might have got voting rights in most countries but there are millions of sisters around the world who are struggling to simply survive.
- An obligation for me to ensure that I do not ‘pull the ladder up’ and deprive my other sisters to use the same ladder and if possible keep holding that ladder wait for everyone to get to their destination.
- I owe it to the generations of women before me all around the world to keep contributing to the cause. Be a fighter!”
Shila Nair is a passionate social justice crusader, well known as a counsellor and Senior Advisor with Shakti - a national not-for-profit community organisation specialised in the area of women’s development, empowerment and domestic/ family violence intervention, prevention and awareness.
In her own words, Ms Nair is passionate about ensuring social justice for all, particularly for women and children affected by gender discrimination and abuse, especially within the migrant and refugee families. An accomplished journalist, author, a passionate social counsellor, Ms Nair has been actively committed to the cause of social justice in New Zealand for more than a decade and a half.
One of the recent feathers in her cap is her inclusion in the Board of the Criminal Justice Advisory Group as announced by the Minister for Justice to bring more diversity in the board and encourage New Zealanders, especially migrants to have a conversation around changes needed to the country’s criminal justice system.
Shila Nair (Picture Supplied)
What does suffrage mean to you?
“It has been 125 years since women as a gender secured the right to vote. If we are to honour the work done by women before us, it is important for the women of today to continue to remain in the struggle for gender equity. For women from our Indian communities, our struggle against gender-based discrimination and violence needs to be acknowledged and supported. It’s time to put an end to dowry and the abuse from it. As long as this practice exists along with other oppressive practices like forced marriage and honour-based violence our women will never be free to be who they really are.”
Roopa Suchdev is a well-known radio and TV presenter in the community, a committed social worker, and the founder of Roopa Aur Aap Charitable Trust – a community-based Non-profit organisation committed to supporting South Asians in New Zealand to live safely and respectfully in a society free of violence and oppression.
She has been committed to the cause of women empowerment and social justice for more than three decades through several platforms including assisting several initiatives of New Zealand Police and the Ministry of Social Development. She was awarded the Queen Service Medal (QSM) by the government in 2005 to acknowledge her contribution to the South Asian community in New Zealand.
Roopa Suchdev (Picture: Facebook)
Along with crusading for women empowerment and social justice, she has also been a patron and promoter of the Indian culture so as our cultural heritage is adequately and respectfully passed on to our next generations in the land of Aotearoa.
Among many vital roles she as has donned in the field of promoting art and culture, some are the roles of President, Urdu Hindi Cultural Association of New Zealand, and Education Chairperson for Bal Vikas Program, Bhartiya Mandir, which amply demonstrates her commitment to communities.
Nanette Nathoo is a fourth generation Kiwi-Indian mum, grand-mum, business owner, enthusiastic community volunteer, and above all a passionate community-safety crusader.
Mrs Nathoo has been working in different guises, especially as the Law and Order Chair for NZICA, and coordinating closely with the New Zealand Police, in creating appropriate video messaging for creating awareness and remaining safe.
Her self-driven leadership in campaigning and educating others, especially elders regarding the issues around safety and crime prevention is exceptionally inspirational and relevant to the topic of suffrage.
If the goal of suffrage is to bring societal equality and to celebrate prominent women who are pushing the envelope around women’s equality, then Mrs Nathoo is a perfect inclusion as she is making valuable inroads with her work in the field of community-safety and law and order, which are still perceived to be a male bastion.
Nanette Nathoo (Picture: File)
“Yes, I have personally faced issues around equality. My personal experience is that as women we have always to work harder and prove that we are also capable of holding positions of influence and authority. Sadly, in many organisations, our fellow male members have their own agenda for personal gain, which often restricts a deserving woman.
What does suffrage mean to you?
“We are grateful to Kate Sheppard and others who have paved the way for our women; however we should not stop from realising the power within ourselves to be the change that we want to see around ourselves.”
Sunita Narayan is one amongst the very few leading tireless champions for Hindi language and culture in New Zealand.
She has been recently awarded the prestigious Vishva Hindi Samman, under foreign category by the Government of India in the recently concluded 11th World Hindi Conference in Mauritius to acknowledge her work in promoting the cause of the Hindi Language.
Sunita Narayan (Picture Supplied)
Mrs Narayan, who moved to New Zealand in 1987, has volunteered at the Wellington Hindi School since 1995, working as a teacher, fundraiser and administrator.
Her incredible work in the field of education, learning and development makes her a worthy inclusion in this list of women of substance in the Kiwi-Indian community.
“Though I have not experienced anything overtly, but have been often asked some bizarre questions such as how do you feel being a brown-woman when you participate in important events or workplaces. Questions like these are dominant relics of a society which is still struggling to accept women equality in its true spirit.”
What does suffrage mean to you?
“For me, suffrage is not something limited to statuary rights only. Rather it should reflect inclusion in all spheres of strategy making and decision making, and women being recognised for their capability and contribution.”