Suzannah Jessep

WoW award winner, international diplomat, champion for engagement with Asia


Suzannah Jessep grew up in Golden Bay and was educated in a small rural school where she didn’t think about Asia, or much about the ethnic roots of her friends. Diversity didn’t really feature in her upbringing.  But she managed to travel the world at 18, having worked at a lodge in Abel Tasman National Park throughout high school to save money (and fresh from winning a section at the World of Wearable Arts awards).

Hitching through Syria on the back of watermelon trucks, escaping an assault in Thailand, learning some Turkish and working as a cleaner in Turkey – these types of experiences have taught her about her own resilience, about communication across cultures, and about people. She has found that taking decisions against the tide – and sometimes against personal prejudice – has opened doors.

Suzannah later joined New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in search of diversity and adventure, and with the vague promise of future travel to India. She ended up spending 13 years in diplomacy, most recently in Delhi, which gave her a new world view. Her time in South Asia – as the Deputy High Commissioner to India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal – gave her a first-hand appreciation of the diversity and opportunity in Asia. 

Today, Suzannah leads the Asia New Zealand Foundation’s research and engagement work. She is widening and deepening her experience of Asia and of foreign policy – and enjoys the chance to enable others to grow their own confidence and knowledge of Asia. Asia presents enormous opportunities to young New Zealanders and Suzannah’s work helps grow the community of young Kiwis who want to plug into the region.