- Being present is about breaking stereotypes
- Shine light on people who give selflessly, day after day, making a difference
- Individual achievements happen because of a collective effort
Anjum Rahman FCA, has dedicated much of her life to making a difference on a large scale. She founded both the Islamic Women's Council of New Zealand and Inclusive Aotearoa Collective Tāhono and is a member of many charitable trusts.
She has also received and been nominated for a slew of awards and honours but says such acknowledgement is never about an individual.
"I have never sought recognition; it goes against the grain and my faith," she says. "But why I've been OK with it is a comment I've heard a few times: 'when you are recognised, we feel seen'."
Anjum uses her influence to advocate for those who are under-represented or face negative stereotyping.
"Being present is about breaking stereotypes and giving representation that changes the way people think about who and what a New Zealander is."
She says that for awards and honours to make an impact there is a community responsibility to keep an eye out for humble difference-makers.
"There are just so many people who do great work and don't get recognised because their work isn't public-facing. So how do we bring those people to the forefront?"
"We need to shine some light on people who give selflessly, day after day, making a difference," she says. "How can we put the case forward for those people who might not have the literacy, or have English as a second language, or who don't have the networks?"
"Being present is about breaking stereotypes and giving representation that changes the way people think."
In 2019 Anjum was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to ethnic communities and women. She was also nominated for the Women of Influence Awards by the Shama Ethnic Women's Trust.
"It was really humbling that they felt I was worthy for being put up," she says. "I couldn't have done it without them."
She says the identity of her nominators is always a surprise - and sometimes a mystery. Like many who work tirelessly for community good, Anjum says success is always the work of many.
"I make sure I recognise and make others aware that individual achievements only ever happen because of a collective effort," she says. She's also grateful to the Islamic Women's Council, whose work with the government has influenced Inclusive Aotearoa Collective Tāhono.
The project uses a "constellation model" to connect NGOs and remove the divisions created by competitive funding. It aims to help groups work together and not "stick to their lane," she says.
It also aims to counter hate in New Zealand. The project began after the March 2019 terrorist attack on the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch. Anjum says the work has been a way to counter her grief, anger and despair.
"It's kept me sane - the feeling I can somehow make it better," she says. "It's my happy place."
The drive to make a difference is ever-present in Anjum's work. She says that being a Chartered Accountant opens the door to a lot of governance roles, which in turn means exposure to societal issues.
But even her day-to-day work stirs awareness of the challenges people face. For Anjum, sometimes making a difference simply means listening.
"You start talking to people about business stuff and they start talking about life stuff," she says. "Those kinds of interactions are happening because we're trusted as CAs."
"People end up baring their soul to you" she says. "You can't help but become more socially-minded from those kinds of experiences."
Nominations for the 2021 Women of Influence Awards close Monday, 16 August.
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