An emerging leader, Siona Fernandes - a young Olympian gives back

Born in the Goa, India. Siona Fernandes was raised in a vibrant culture of diverse, values, practices and beliefs. She left home at 15 to pursue a dance career (she is a PhD scholarship recipient) and shortly after moved with her family to New Zealand. Siona’s own personal experience as a migrant in New Zealand has shaped her understanding of how culture influences the role of the body in wellbeing. In Goa the geographic layout of neighbourhoods promotes social interaction creating more opportunities for incidental movement such as walking, visiting, and group play. Upon arriving in New Zealand Siona noted that this level of incidental movement disappeared from the lives of many Indian migrants.

On a personal level Siona was able to translate these insights into new forms of physical activity and a new relationship with movement and health by taking up boxing, a completely non-traditional sport for a young Indian woman, but one which allowed her to connect with a new interpretation of her individuality in the New Zealand environment. She describes boxing as akin to dance in that it is both rhythmic and meditative. Her subsequent experience of being the first New Zealand female boxing representative at the 2012 Olympic games in London have honed her insights into health and wellbeing issues. She notes that where migrants have lost access to the incidental movement available in their country of origin and not replaced it - health outcomes may decline significantly - but many people fail to understand why.

From classical Indian dance to boxing on the world stage this former Olympian has now turned her attention to completing her PhD. Her long term goal is “to inspire positive change”, particularly amongst Indian populations through athleticism. By combining her lived experience of the settlement journey, cultural insights and her mana as an Olympic Ambassador Siona is fast becoming a leader and inspiration for the next generation of healthy Kiwis from all walks of life. Read more about Siona visit her website.