- * Janifa Bhamji is a woman on a mission.
She’s in her fourth year of study towards the Bachelor of Bicultural Social Work at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa in Māngere and can’t wait to put what she has learned into action.
She’s already had some experience, advocating for support for her son, who has special needs.
“They told me there was a wait list of a year to get the help we needed, but I got it in three months,” she says.
“Even though it was frustrating, I loved that journey, it was satisfying. So I knew I had the skills to do this but no qualifications.”
She’d previously had a successful career in finance and auditing in the US, but returned to Aotearoa in 2013 and had her son.
“My life changed. I became an advocate for him. I did a lot of research and looked at studying things like law but was attracted to social work.”
She was also attracted to Te Wānanga o Aotearoa as a way of learning more about her Māori heritage.
“I hadn’t connected with that side so thought I’d take that step. I’d always been bigger on my Fijian-Indian side. So I thought why not step into that space and learn more about me. And I loved it.”
Along with being Māori and Fijian-Indian, Janifa is also Muslim and says that gives her a unique perspective.
“I have three world views and wouldn’t be able to express that in a mainstream setting and be taken seriously.”
That hasn’t been an issue at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and Janifa says the acceptance she has felt has been empowering.
“It’s really built me up. It’s set me up for this journey and I’m so grateful it’s a kaupapa Māori organisation. I’ve really loved the learning and want to keep going. It’s been a journey and a lot of sacrifice but I’m happy.”