Diwali is occasion to reflect, respond and respect

Vanisa Dhiru

Diwali is one of my favourite times of year – a time to sit back and reflect on the year ‘that has been.’ For me and my family, it is a reminder to celebrate our culture and where we have come from, together.

One of my long-held Diwali traditions is asking those around me for blessings for the year ahead. It also provides an opportunity for my family to bless others.

I like to clean the house, declutter and fill my house with candles, plus I enjoy buying a new outfit to wear during the season.

My favourite things

One of my favourite things about Diwali is it provides the opportunity for me to pause and think about how I have connected with the Indian community in New Zealand over the past year, and how I’m going to continue to do so in the year ahead.

I enjoy celebrating Diwali with colleagues and sharing my culture and special traditions – it reminds me how incredibly proud I am to be Kiwi Indian.

ANZ Award

Last Diwali, I was honoured with the ‘ANZ Diwali Young Achiever Award.’

As we approach the 2018 ANZ Diwali Awards and the wider Diwali Festival, I look back on the year and the wonderful milestones reached for us here in New Zealand.

As a country we recently celebrated Suffrage 125, marking 125 years since New Zealand women won the right to vote in general elections.

It is true, this was an incredibly progressive move for New Zealand and for the world at the time.

In 1896, shortly after Kiwi women won the vote, Kate Sheppard helped found the National Council of Women of New Zealand (NCWNZ) and became its first President.

As President, Kate fought for the same issues that women are seeking today, largely around pay equity and gender stereotypes.

Encouraging change

Since then, there have been proud shifts in rights for women and gender diverse people, with involvement from many New Zealand community groups and individuals.

This shift in cultural attitude is encouraging, but we still have so much further to go.

Today, with the help of the Gender Equal NZ movement and led by NCWNZ, we are tackling the gender stereotypes that persist in Aotearoa New Zealand and prevent women and gender diverse people from achieving their potential.

One of my favourite parts of my role as NCWNZ President is speaking to young people, young girls in particular.

They will be our future, the ones who will drive change for an equal, more inclusive tomorrow. I am particularly passionate about equality and I seek to champion it every day.

Key strength

Growing up in Palmerston North, our school did not have guest speakers who looked like me, there was no one I could look up to and think, ‘I can be involved in what they are working towards – that can be me.’

Cultural diversity is a key strength for Aotearoa New Zealand today and being part of this change excites me.

This Diwali, as I look toward 2019 and beyond, I am excited about the opportunities available to New Zealand to continue to be leaders in diversity and embrace the torch for gender equality.

About Vanisa Dhiru

Vanisa was born in New Zealand and grew up in Palmerston North.

She was the 2017 recipient of the ‘ANZ Diwali Young Achiever Award.’

Known for her dynamic leadership, Vanisa has recently been appointed President for the National Council of Women of New Zealand for the second year.

Now a proud Wellingtonian, her earlier assignments include Volunteering New Zealand chief executive, 20/20 Trust executive director and YWCA Aotearoa New Zealand Acting General Manager.

About the ANZ Diwali Awards

Each year around the Diwali Festival ANZ, together with New Zealand Indian Central Association, celebrates individuals and organisations doing great work within the Kiwi-Indian community.

The ANZ Diwali Awards started in 2016 and comprise four categories: ‘ANZ Diwali Young Achiever,’ ‘ANZ Diwali Migrant Entrepreneur Award,’ ‘ANZ Diwali Migrant Support Award,’ and the ‘ANZ Diwali Community Spirit Award.’


Photo Caption:

Vanisa Dhiru


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