#WomenCrushWednesday : Kesh Naidoo-Rauf

Local elections are fast approaching, with enrollment closing in just over 2 weeks and voting papers sent out 5 weeks after that before a new council is elected. We spoke to Kesh Naidoo-Rauf, co-founder of Barefeet NZ, University of Otago Gold Award recipient and ex-committee member of Rototuna Business Network, about her campaign for Hamilton City Council

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Tell us about yourself!

I am a mum, a wife, a community pharmacist, business owner and an ethnically diverse, sensible, practical young woman living in the beautiful city of Hamilton. I live in the suburb of Enderley, and co-own busy and successful pharmacy businesses in Rototuna and Te Rapa. South African by birth, Indian by ethnicity, Fijian-Indian-Muslim by marriage and a 100% Kiwi can-do attitude. I was 15 when my parents, siblings and I moved to Aotearoa. Having spent my early years in a country which marginalised it's people by race, I am fully aware about the dangers of a segregated society. I spent some of my best years as a student at the University of Otago where I worked hard to obtain my Bachelor of Pharmacy. It's also where I met my supportive and loving life partner, business partner and fellow pharmacist, Shazeel Rauf. My son, Zaydin, is 4 years old and is the light of my life. I strongly believe that the values we teach our children and the example we set is most important in setting them up for a happy and healthy future.

What are your greatest achievements?

Good question! I am still working towards many personal goals, but I am very proud of everything I have achieved thus far.

1. Buying a house at a young age with no deposit - that was possible 10 years ago!

2. Buying into 2 successful pharmacy businesses - this was always a dream of ours - having a business interest in a pharmacy. My husband and I have, and continue, to work extremely hard making many sacrifices to achieve and maintain this. I completed my pharmacist internship in Fairfield Pharmacy in 2007, then we moved to Palmerston North for 2 years to gain the work experience we needed to manage a business. On our return, we were offered shares in the Te Rapa pharmacy in 2012, then in Rototuna in 2014. Our greatest business achievement is having done this on our own financial strength with no outside help.

3. For me personally, my biggest achievement to date is being a mum. I have struggled with fertility issues for many years and my son is our true blessing..

How have you been involved with the community?

In university, I was privileged to earn a University of Otago Gold Award for successfully re-building, re-naming and re-branding the Indian Student Association. I also held the President position in it's first year. I was also a radio presenter in my Uni days at a student radio station, where I first co-hosted then hosted an indian radio programme.

My talented, creative younger sister and I co-founded a charity called Barefeet NZ in 2014. We collect new and used shoes and pass it onto people who need it. Our most recent collection saw approximately 500 pairs of kids' shoes re-distributed to kids in need in our local Hamilton community. We run active collections at least once a year. But if you would like to donate shoes in between collections please contact us. You can support us by donating shoes, or donating money to buy shoes. Facebook Website

I plan community initiatives such as the Local Shoebox Xmas - donated by Hamilton families these shoe boxes are filled with gifts and given to other local children in need- and other various gift basket donations to community groups and schools.

I am also passionate about my pharmacies being socially conscientious. I therefore organise many community initiatives through my businesses, such as the Local Shoebox Xmas, blanket donations, beanie donations, etc (see the Unichem Rototuna Pharmacy facebook page for details) I am involved with many health related initiatives through my business as well - eg. days dedicated to Diabetes Awareness, collecting donations for St Johns, Prostate Cancer. More recently I ran a health promotion initiative during Re-O-week, where my team and I handed out info packs to students - containing info about sexual health with free condoms.

I have just finished my stint on the committee of the Rototuna Business Network (RBN). I also spearheaded an initiative where the RBN provided funds for our local Muslim community to cook halal food which I personally delivered to some of the terror attack victims in Christchurch Hospital. This initiative played a huge role in opening my eyes to helping more people - which is also one of the main reasons I'm running in the local government election.

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What specifically would you like to do to fight segregation if you are voted onto Hamilton City Council?

March 15th showed us the dangers of extremism and brought us together as one nation. We are a diverse bunch in Hamilton, with 160 ethnicities. If elected, I would work to bridge the gap between our ethnic communities and local government. To bridge the gap between our young and old. To bridge the gap by allowing our most vulnerable to thrive - through supporting social housing and community food programmes. I will work to promote cultural education and inclusive behaviour.

You mention that buying a house "at a young age with no deposit" was possible 10 years ago. As a young woman, what do you think Hamilton City Council can do to help make this possible for young people again?

Hamilton City Council has no control over the lending criteria of the banks. But Hamilton City Council can aim to meet supply with demand. Our housing crisis is just that - a crisis. Owning your own home is difficult - due to the high cost of living and to the high cost of housing. By increasing the supply of housing, an increase in availability will drive down the price of housing, allowing it to become more affordable. Hamilton City Council can cut red tape, approve development for more housing, and upgrade infrastructure to cope with high density housing. Young people want to see Hamilton City Council take a sustainable approach to all of its projects including building up, and not out. And this may suit most young people but young families still want the option of having a backyard for classic Kiwi living. Hamilton City Council needs to be versatile and provide enough options to meet the demands of the wide range of residents in our city. Hamilton City Council also needs to control their spending and reduce debt. We need to stop operating on a deficit and allowing the burden of poor decisions to fall to our ratepayer to fund. Rates are quickly becoming unaffordable and can be a turn off for young people wanting to buy a house in Hamilton.

What would you say to other mothers out there, especially ethnic mothers, who might think that standing up for council, or voting, is not for them?

Your voice is important. Your voice matters. Take a stand and vote for your children's future.

If you would like to find out more about Kesh, or support her running for council you can pop over to Facebook here or you’ll find her website here.

Among our normal #WomeanCrushWednesday posts, YWCA Hamilton will be running #WCW with local women that are running for Hamilton City Council, Mayor and Waikato Regional Councils. We want to support all women who are running in the local elections this year, as well as supporting women in the Waikato to vote for a representative that support them.

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