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Shakti Community Council

1997 –

This essay written by Lynette Townsend was published online in Women together: a history of women's organisations in New Zealand in 2019.

Shakti Community Council Inc. is a non-profit organisation serving migrant and refugee women and families of Asian, African and Middle Eastern origin. [1]

The organisation began in New Zealand when Farida Sultana and a small group of women of Asian, African and Middle Eastern descent met in Auckland in July 1995 to support one another and to source English language classes and driver licensing. The group grew in numbers as news about the service spread within the communities.

During conversations, it emerged that domestic violence was a major issue confronting these communities. On 8 August 1995 the group met to discuss the establishment of a culturally specialist support service in New Zealand. Sultana had been volunteering at a local Women’s Refuge in Auckland, and had observed a need for culturally sensitive assistance and support for Asian, African, and Middle Eastern women. Originally from Bangladesh, she had once sought refuge with Shakti Aid in the UK.

By September 1995 Shakti Asian Women’s Support Group had developed a constitution and an operational framework. They officially registered as a charitable trust on 28 February 1996. In the beginning, the group continued to focus on providing English language lessons and learner driving support, but the awareness grew that some Asian, African and Middle Eastern women attending the classes needed help in dealing with domestic and family violence. The group came across their first domestic violence case when they discovered a Middle Eastern woman who was locked in her home and had suffered severe physical and emotional abuse. She was eventually helped to flee the situation, and her case propelled the women to set up a permanent specialist support service, including the first refuge specifically for immigrant women in Auckland.

Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Interview with Farida Sultana, founder of the Shakti Community Council New Zealand and Australia.

That first refuge was established with the support of Women’s Refuge, and Shakti eventually became a government accredited provider. Shakti gained an initial injection of $30,000 in government funding, but otherwise had to reply on fundraising and donations from its inception. [2]

Between 1995 and 2018, Shakti in New Zealand grew and adapted to meet increasing demand. The organisation restructured from charitable trust to incorporated society on 28 September 1999. It changed its name from Shakti Asian Women’s Support Group Trust to Shakti Community Council Inc. on 2 May 2003. The new structure allowed for more participation from multiple ethnic communities and for operational transparency; it also opened the door to settlement and family services. The organisation took on a nationwide focus and established four more refuges in the North and South Islands.

By 2018, Shakti Community Council Inc. was providing multifarious services through its member organisations in New Zealand, Australia and internationally. In New Zealand, Shakti’s various branches included the Shakti Asian Women’s Centre Inc., Shakti Asian Women’s Safehouse Inc., Shakti Education Training and Advisory Company (SETAC) Ltd, Shakti Ethnic Women’s Support Group Christchurch Inc., Shakti Ethnic Women’s Support Group Central Region Inc., Shakti Ethnic Women’s Support Group Wellington Inc., and Shakti Legal Advocacy and Family Social Services Inc.

As a well-established national not-for-profit community organisation with facilities in Auckland, Wellington, Tauranga, Christchurch and Dunedin, Shakti offered a 24-hour multilingual crisis call service, 0800SHAKTI, for women in violent and abusive situations. Shakti continued to provide culturally sensitive refuges, as well as drop-in centres, outreach, advocacy, counselling, psychoeducational safety programmes, legal referral, an interpreting service, and an NZQA life skills programme which included road safety and English language lessons, as well as domestic violence intervention and awareness training for communities, and initiating pathways to self-reliance.

Another branch of Shakti in New Zealand was Shakti Youth. This group of young people from Asian, African and Middle Eastern backgrounds focused on social justice issues and building a violence-free future for New Zealand. They aimed to empower youth and advocate for the rights of youth of migrant and refugee backgrounds. They ran the Shakti Youth Network for Change (SYNC) programme to prevent family violence, in partnership with high schools across Auckland. [3] Social media were a key communication tool for Shakti Youth, which had their own Facebook page, Instagram account and website.

Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culure and Heritage

Shakti Youth video about a march against discrimination and violence in 2017.

Shakti’s senior members and Shakti Youth were at the forefront of the lobby for legislative change to stop the forced marriage of minors aged under 18. Their efforts contributed to the Marriage (Court Consent to Marriage of Minors) Amendment Act 2018, decreeing that a Family Court judge must consent to any marriage, civil union or de facto relationship involving young people aged 17 or younger.

A new development in 2017 was the Sustinnoworx Social Enterprise project. This venture was born out of Shakti Education Training and Advisory Company (SETAC) Ltd. The Sustinnoworx project aimed to help refugee and migrant women, through practical education and mentoring programs, to become self-sufficient and environmentally sustainable.

Lynette Townsend



[2] Sultana, Farida with Nair, Shila, 2011, p. 209.


Published sources

Sultana, Farida with Nair, Shila, Purple dandelion: a Muslim woman’s struggle against violence and oppression, Exisle Publishing Limited, Auckland, 2011

Further sources

Farida Sultanaon NZHistory:

Shakti website:  

Shakti Youth website: