I have lived in New Zealand for the past 11 years and I have been working at Nisa for a little bit more than a year.
When I first read about Nisa, I found the idea to be inspiring: a company employing women from refugee backgrounds who would have otherwise struggled and often find it difficult to find employment. I started sewing briefly in high school in fabrics class. Previously, I had some domestic plain sewing experience as I would sew at home, however, at Nisa I learned how to sew on industrial sewing machines and further my understanding and handling of domestic machines as well.
Coming into this industry, I had not realised just how much work goes into creating an article of clothing from scratch. Even the smallest undergarments that one might assume requires the least amount of work take extreme attention to detail and 5 different machines to complete. As a small community at Nisa, we all take pride in finishing our work together. Therefore, the most precious element in making underwear is how essential teamwork is. We all work together so we can reach the best possible outcome and offer each other a helping hand at each and every step. The only competition is beating our results from last week.
I work part-time while studying towards a degree in criminology. My experience working at Nisa has been educational and fulfilling. The skills I have gained will be with me for the rest of my life and I only intend to strengthen and continue to grow. I work at one of the few companies in the country that is setting an example on sustainability, diversity, inclusion and opportunity.
Our workshop consists of staff from many different backgrounds. We embrace each other's differences as we can only learn from one another. Conversations about languages and how different cultures practice the same holidays or the foods we grow up eating in different corners of the world are always fascinating. Nisa not only provides an opportunity for individuals looking for a start but also an opportunity for other companies to realise hiring refugees will not be a setback.
The type of customers Nisa attracts are overwhelmingly kind and supportive. They are always providing us with feedback that drives and motivates us. I am fortunate enough to work both in the workshop during the weekday and in the shop on the weekends. Meeting our customers and seeing faces again is rewarding on its own. From the customers we encounter every day at the shop and at pop-up shops, the support we get has never been short of amazing. This aspect alone is enough reason to be able to see a long and prosperous future for Nisa. Nisa is going on to its third year and continues to defy speculation about hiring refugee background Kiwis, despite language barriers.
My advice for refugee background women wanting to work would be to continue seeking work and not give up. It might seem impossible but nothing is impossible. Also never hesitate to ask questions and ask for help. Even if you think there is no hope, you won’t be sure until you try.