Anjum Rahman

Anjum Rahman

Anjum Rahman is a Muslim woman who has been actively advocating for women’s rights and against racism in New Zealand since the 1980s. She has drawn on her own personal experiences of racism and gender bias as motivation for her work. Her overarching desire is to create a better world for her own children and for all New Zealanders.  

Anjum was born in a village on the Ganges Plains in Northern India. She arrived in New Zealand in 1972 when she was almost six years old. Her father had just completed a PhD in Canada, and was offered a temporary post-doctorial position at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in Hamilton. When he was offered a permanent position, the family made New Zealand their home. At first they were the only Muslim family in Hamilton, and Anjum remembers feeling isolated as a young girl at primary school where she was the only child who was not Pākehā or Māori. High school was easier with more people from different cultural backgrounds, but it wasn’t until she went to university that she found friends she could relate to. Many of her friends at university had faced similar experiences of migrating to New Zealand as young children.

Anjum’s father and mother were instrumental in establishing a strong Muslim community in Hamilton. In the 1970s they held congregational prayers at their home and Anjum’s father was the first Imam (Islamic leader). Her mother facilitated lessons for women and children. While the Muslim community has shared religious beliefs and practices, they have always been an extremely diverse group of people drawn from different countries and ethnicities. 

In the following video, Anjum shares some of her experiences and talks about what motivated her to work with others to establish support groups for ethnic and Muslim women.

In 2019, Anjum Rahman was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to ethnic communities and women. She was involved in the establishment of the Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand in 1989, and became its first secretary. She has been a Board member for the Shama Hamilton Ethnic Women’s Centre, Waikato Community Broadcasting Charitable Trust and Ethnic New Zealand Trust. She was a founding member of the anti-rape Campaign for Consent Hamilton in 2013, and a qualified Human Rights Commission facilitator. She wrote for feminist blog The Hand Mirror and campaigned against sexual violence. She stood for Hamilton City Council in 2013 and was a Labour Party list candidate in 2005, 2008 and 2014. Recently Anjum has been a spokesperson for the Muslim community on the 2019 terrorist attacks, in which 51 people died at two Christchurch mosques. She has written for The Spinoff and been continually called upon for media interviews.

In 2019 she launched the Inclusive Aotearoa Collective – a community led initiative set up to combat discrimination. In the following video Anjum discusses why this was so important to her and how she believes it will have an impact.

Further information

Abdullah Drury, Islam in New Zealand: The First Mosque. A Short History of the New Zealand Muslim Association and the Ponsonby Mosque, self-published, 2006

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