SHANNON WRAY, CO-FOUNDER OF NISA

Here at SYSCA, we want to counter the endless amounts of shit chat plaguing the planet and cut to the good shit. To do this, we're picking the inner corners of the brains of some cool people doing cool shit, and there sure are plenty of them. And this our friends, is our interview series, “Shit Chat.”

Underwear. A first world human necessity. We wear underwear everyday and it would be hard to live without.

Jobs. A universal human necessity. We go to them everyday (if we are lucky enough to have them) and they are hard to live without.

Image from the NISA  instagram

Image from the NISA instagram

NISA (Arabic for woman) merges the two. It’s a funky and ethical underwear label that aims to help refugee women “from the ground up,” and offers them interesting and meaningful work.

A massive issue that plagues refugees - people who have already been through so much - is finding a job in their new country.

Often, employers are not willing to give people, who in their home country have degrees and well paying jobs, a place to work because of cultural and language barriers. NISA is changing that.

Why underwear? “People genuinely need underwear. At the same time, it felt like the world of lingerie was controlled by men. Our vision is to make ethical underwear that firmly has women in mind, and is neither lacy nor frumpy,” say’s Elisha Watson co-founder of NISA. And even better - their underwear is far outside the world of fast fashion.

Elisha quit her job so that refugees could have one. She was working as a lawyer, but quit to start a business with heart, to help former refugee’s not only survive, but thrive in New Zealand.

Shannon, who I was lucky enough to meet at a random networking event (turns out networking actually works), is NISA’s other co-founder and she’s pretty bloody cool. When we met we were both in our last year of studying, but she was way ahead of the game. As well as co-founding NISA, she’s spent time with PrepairNZ (who we actually have a Shit Chat coming up with soon - watch this space), Inspiring Stories, and now Dignity NZ, which is creating a movement for free sanitary items for all women in New Zealand. 

So, what goes through the mind of someone who’s done this much cool shit at only 21? Let’s find out.

A Shit Chat with Shannon Wray

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SYSCA: What shit do you care about right now?

Shan: It is incredibly hard not to care about everything that is going on in the world currently. I am extremely lucky that the two incredible organisations that I work for (Dignity NZ & NISA) are doing so much good - what I do in my day to day provides me with a huge level of fulfillment because I can directly see how my work is impacting the lives of others. 

Shannon and Elisha, NISA co-founders

Shannon and Elisha, NISA co-founders

However, I am currently at a stage where I care about so many issues but don't have the mental capacity to keep up with everything. The issues in the world just feel so big and I know that I'm currently not in a situation where I am able to create the change I want to see. It's been incredible lately seeing people spread the message around this. It's so hard to be across everything and it's okay to do what you can, where you can and accept that you don't have the level of power to fix the worlds issues.

SYSCA: If you could nominate one person from your Instagram feed to replace Trump, who would it be and why?

Shan: Literally anyone off my instagram feed would do a better job! I really struggle to understand how someone with so much privilege can be so blind to the issues he is avoiding and creating. I am so proud of our current Prime Minister, she has been the face of New Zealand through some of our hardest times. I would Vote Jacinda for President. 

SYSCA: What’s the point of what you’re doing, what legacy do you want to leave on the world? 

Shan: Ever since I jumped into the social enterprise world I could never jump back. There is just something so incredible about knowing that the work you are doing is actually benefiting people and creating a difference in the world. From being involved with PrepairNZ, Nisa and now working for Dignity. I love the fact that the messages we are spreading and the impact we are making is truly positive. I don't think I could ever work for a company that conflicted with my values. I know that one day I want to own my own impactful business doing something for the world! I don't know what this looks like yet but everyday I am learning more and more. So watch this space. 

SYSCA: The world is a pretty dark place right now, since superheroes don’t exist what do you think is going to save the world? 


Shan: My mum always says that it's us young people that are going to save the world and it drives me crazy. There are so many incredible people out there pushing for change right now - but we need government action. We are facing these huge issues and the general population is just so blind. Ignorance is bliss. 

The issues are already there but people aren't looking. I just really hope there is some scientific breakthrough and we are able to reverse all the damage we have done because it's getting too late. 

SYSCA: Who do you think we should have our next shit chat with, and why?

Shan: Irene from Prepair has always been an incredible inspiration for me. She's a mover and shaker and doesn't accept things. She has some incredible projects in the works and I can't wait to see what amazing things she is going to get up to in the years to come. 


And there we have it. A Shit Chat from a super non-shit person, doing super non-shit things.

P.S. If you haven’t already, go and buy some underwear from NISA!