Date posted: 7/10/2020 5 min read

Difference makers of 2020: Anjum Rahman FCA

Anjum Rahman FCA looked for the most effective way to counter hate after 51 Moslem worshippers were murdered in Christchurch.

In Brief

  • After the March 2019 terrorist attack on two Christchurch mosques, Anjum Rahman FCA channelled her grief into positive action.
  • She helped establish the Inclusive Aotearoa Collective Tāhono to counter divisions and hatred.
  • It brings NGOs together to collaborate in a constellation model.

Story Hayden Maskell
Photo Ruth Gilmour

For human rights activist Anjum Rahman FCA, 15 March 2019 was a turning point. That was the day a terrorist attack in Christchurch brought violent racism into New Zealand’s national consciousness.

Rahman and others had long been pushing for a coordinated approach to battle discrimination and the attack on the two mosques in Christchurch became the impetus to setting up the Inclusive Aotearoa Collective Tāhono, a movement aimed at helping New Zealand embrace its diversity.

The Collective became a way for Rahman to channel her grief and anger into something positive, promoting tolerance and belonging.

“We wanted to know how we could stop someone getting sucked into that kind of space, and how we could effectively counter hate,” she says. “It was really obvious that we needed a collective effort, to work together on a strategic approach to solving it.”

Difference makers of 2020: Anjum Rahman FCAPicture: Anjum Rahman FCA.

A path to a more inclusive New Zealand

Working with tangata whenua [literally “people of the land”, the Māori] is something Rahman is excited about, because it is an opportunity to enact a visionary way of working. She believes there is an opportunity to lay a path towards a more inclusive Aotearoa New Zealand.

“How can we do this with a true Treaty partnership model? It’s uncharted territory, but it’s absolutely crucial to the way we want to see New Zealand,” she says.

With advocacy, activism and speaking engagements filling her schedule, it’s easy to forget that Rahman is an experienced accountant. But she says her accounting expertise is vital to the success of these community initiatives.

“The accounting work is incredibly important because you have to get budgets done for funding applications, look at how to make the money stretch, and all those kinds of things accountants are good at,” she says.

“I’ve also done a good chunk of auditing work, so to have those financial skills in your pocket as you do this work is a huge advantage.”

Success is not about individual ‘stars’

Despite a growing list of achievements and accolades, Rahman is steadfast in her belief that success is never the work of an individual.

“You never achieve anything alone,” she says. “People think, ‘Oh, I’m self-made’, but actually there is that whole support network around you.”

Difference makers of 2020: Anjum Rahman FCAPicture: Anjum Rahman FCA.

“You never achieve anything alone. People think, ‘Oh, I’m self-made’, but actually there is that whole support network around you.”
Anjum Rahman FCA

She sees the celebration of individual ‘stars’ as something that can restrict meaningful progress. Often, she says, making a difference means working in the background.

It’s a concept she believes more men need to adopt if they want to see gender equality in the business world. Speaking at the Women of Influence 2020 Speaker Series event, she told the panel that getting more females into leadership positions is about making a choice.

“Sometimes men need to not put themselves forward and go and find a woman to support.”

Make change where you are

The drive to fight for better, especially on behalf of women, has been influenced by her mother, Qamar Rahman, “a pretty fierce activist, in her own quiet way,” Rahman laughs.

“She was always holding her ground, making sure we got a good education, always fighting for women in the Muslim community to be active and have a voice.”

Rahman believes that in order to make the world a better place, one needs to make change where they are.

“To me, success is achieving that change to where people are truly working together,” she says. “When they can just be who they are, their most authentic selves, and not having to suppress part of themselves to be accepted.”

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