When long time E Tū Whānau kaimahi Jenny Janif was awarded the prestigious Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) in the 2020 New Year’s Honours for Services to Refugee and Migrant communities, friends and colleagues were over the moon.
Kanohi ki te kanohi work with refugee and migrant communities and strong professional and personal links with tangata whenua. Her work to help build a violence free Aotearoa is well informed and academically sophisticated but her heart is always with those struggling for respect and equal opportunity in our society.
Jenny is a fourth-generation Fiji-born Indian who migrated to New Zealand in 1989 and joined the public sector in 1990. Since then she’s worked in various roles with a focus on supporting community development, identity, ethnic affairs and early intervention programmes on positive parenting and family violence.
Inspired by parents
Jenny credits her parents for inspiring her life time commitment to social justice and race relations.
“My parents are from a 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 were inculcated in me right from my childhood.”
The experiences and migration stories of her ancestors from Afghanistan, British-India, Guyana and the Solomon Islands have inspired Jenny to write poetry and short stories. Some of there have been published in New Kiwi Women’s Stories funded which was by Auckland Council.
History of creating change
Jenny’s mahi within the E Tū Whānau kaupapa builds on 20 years of social development work with Auckland’s rapidly changing migrant and refugee communities.
As project manager for the original Settling In programme, she oversaw the establishment of the Auckland Resettled Community Coalition. In 2003 she co-founded the Umma Trust 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. She still serves on its board.
Jenny was a member of the Fiji Womens Group and is currently member of the Advisory Group for the University of Auckland’s Centre for Research for Asian and Ethnic Minorities and she was recently elected to the Board of the Africa New Zealand Business Council.
If all that isn’t enough, Jenny is a Justice of Peace, appointed in 1998 and still finds time to present academic papers on community development, family violence and youth development at conferences in New Zealand and internationally.