Nurain Janah is a social entrepreneur, speaker and facilitator. In 2017 she was a finalist for the New Zealand Women of Influence Awards and also represented New Zealand at the UN Commission on the Status of Women advocating for young women of colour in the workplace. This year, Nurain founded Authenticity Aotearoa focused on supporting young women from ethnic and migrant backgrounds through mentorship and advocacy.
Volunteering has always been important for Nurain Janah.
Not only is it a way of giving back and contributing to the lives of others, she believes it also fosters a sense of self-development — particularly in areas such as leadership — based on her own personal journey as a migrant.
Nurain arrived in New Zealand aged 15 with her mother and two siblings from their home in the Maldives.
At university she studied for her Bachelor of Science in Geography and also began a foray into student politics. She submitted her nomination for the role of International Students Officer at AUSA – little realising the position involved both campaigning and a voting process.
“I was actually quite shocked when I discovered I had to get out and campaign for votes,” she says. “It was not something I had ever done before. Initially I was quite terrified about having to speak in public, but I figured things out as I went along.”
She got the role and says it was formative because it gave her early experience in governance and “showed me how powerful meaningful diversity and inclusion could be”.
It was also the start of a personal commitment to advocacy that has seen Nurain play a leading role in establishing a range of organisations designed to support young people. Two prominent examples include spearheading the formation of the Central Auckland Youth Council and She4She, a social enterprise that acts as a kind of “matchmaking platform” to help young women with career guidance and work experience opportunities.
Nurain says she is driven by the rewarding opportunity to lift someone up and believes mentoring is a valuable aspect of professional life for both mentors and mentees alike.
“No matter how busy I am, I’m happy to talk to anybody, especially any young person who is thinking about their journey and in need of someone who will listen.”
Mentoring has played a significant role in her own professional journey, having had mentors who have uplifted and advised her in unique ways.
In 2017, Nurain was named as a finalist in the New Zealand Women of Influence Awards and also represented New Zealand at the 2017 UN Commission on the Status of Women advocating for young women of colour in the workplace.
Nurain is one of only four female national presidents of the Junior Chamber International (formerly Jaycees). She says the organisation provides valuable experience for helping young people to develop their advocacy skills and has also given her further governance experience at both local and global levels.
But Nurain is very aware of the challenges she continues to face.
“Despite having spent most of my life here, New Zealand constantly reminds me that I am not Kiwi. I have experienced the full spectrum of barriers and challenges that migrants, women of colour and young people face.”
She says it is her experience of these barriers that motivates her to work towards creating a more harmonious world through advocacy, mentoring and decision-making in a range of governance and leadership roles.
“My mission is to create an equitable world,” she says. “I do this through mentoring and storytelling — because we need more role models from all backgrounds and walks of life.”