Nive Sharat Chandran

Policy analyst, co-president of YWCA Aotearoa

Nive Sharat Chandran had the opportunity to recognise her leadership potential when still at high school. She’s determined to pass on what she’s learned to other women who are committed to working for their communities.

Now a policy analyst for the Ministry of Health, Nive was recently elected as Vice President of the World YWCA Board. Her relationship with the organisation began when she was a teenager. At 23, she became co-president of YWCA Aotearoa/New Zealand. She’s an Asia New Zealand Foundation Leadership network member and a YouthLaw Aotearoa board member. She was a youth advocate for Shakti Legal Advocacy and Family Social Services. She was also a youth councillor and eventually chair of the Auckland City Youth Council. Nive was one of five finalists in the emerging leader category of the Westpac Women of Influence Awards in 2013.

Born in Chennai, India, Nive moved to New Zealand when she was nine with her mother and older brother. She says taking part in the YWCA Future Leaders programme, offered to selected students from decile one to four schools, changed the way she saw herself.

“I went to Mt Roskill Grammar in Auckland, one of the most ethnically diverse high schools in the country, and one of the first schools involved. I was a young woman who was already involved in 101 things, but that programme filled me in on my leadership potential and gave me an amazing mentor.

“Then when opportunities like a spot on the Auckland City Youth Council came up, I had the confidence to say yeah I could go and do that. 

“I think it’s important to get the roles you can, prove yourself and make sure you don’t pull the ladder up behind you.”

Personal experience has given Nive a deep respect for women’s roles in the community.

“I was raised by an amazing single mother, who brought us halfway across the world. That’s one of the reasons that drives me to work in the community to support amazing women everywhere.

“I think anybody who makes a difference to someone is a leader. It doesn’t have to be hugely significant. There are so many women who take on leading roles in the community. They might not be a CEO with 15,000 staff or the head of an amazing corporation, but if you are running a community organisation, you are making a difference to your own community.”

She says mentors help build confidence.

“We need to recognise women and say we see you are setting up a community garden or helping out after floods. Did you know that’s pretty amazing? Then when there are other opportunities they will have the self-confidence to believe they are leaders and step up.”

As co-chair of YWCA Aotearoa/New Zealand, which works to empower women with a core focus on young women’s leadership, Nive says she regularly faces challenges.

“I can sit at the board table and think 'I’m not a lawyer with lots of legal knowledge or a chartered account with years of experience'. But I’ve learned that what I bring is a completely different perspective because of my age and my diversity. That’s equally valuable when discussing issues in an organisation that impacts young women such as myself.

“Having come from a developing country I have a particular way of looking at things, and that applies at work too. I can put my minority lens on and consider if what we are working on is going to meet the needs of the people we want to help. That’s hugely valuable.”

Nive says she gets as much as she gives when working in community roles.

“Yes I am helping, but it’s a symbiotic relationship. I meet so many different people from different walks of life. The enrichment I get from seeing their passion and learning about their lives is inspiring.”