I started my journey to Canada with no status. That changed to refugee status and I’ve recently got the permanent resident status for the sake of bringing the rest of my family here with me. Though it has been a long and sometimes harrowing journey, my family and I are hoping to get our Canadian citizenships next year.

Though that has always been my greatest hope to achieve since I first landed in Canada, I wasn’t always sure that I would every achieve it. Not with all the challenges I had to face on my long journey to today.

Living away from family, my husband and my four children, for more than two and half years was a struggle. If you are a parent, then you may understand the guilt you feel for being away from your children for a long period of time. Even if I was working to improve their lives in the future, I felt guilty that I was missing out on the precious times of my young children. My youngest was only three years old at the time.

At the same time, this journey has taught me so many lessons, both beautiful and ugly. I learned too many new things and experienced life in a completely different way. And those experiences helped me grow.

I am grateful that Canada is such a beautiful land of diverse people with diverse faiths, traditions, color, and values. More importantly, all those differences are acknowledged and treated equally. I can’t express just how much it means to have a place where my family and I can spend the remainder of our lives in peace, prosperity and freedom.  O Canada! Thank you.

Secondly, I extend my sincere gratitude to all Canadians for accepting and treating us with utmost respect and love, no matter what status. Whether we’re a refugee, an immigrant, or even just a newcomer, the majority of Canadians are quick to welcome us and even help us in our new home.

But as a woman, more specifically as a woman who is also an Afghan Muslim newcomer, I faced number of challenges because of who I am and where I came from. Applying for a job was especially hard because everywhere I applied, I was told that it would be “difficult to get the job without Canadian work experience”. This was an especially hard thing to hear because I had more than fifteen years of work experience with the United Nations before I came to Canada.

If that wasn’t disheartening enough, I have also faced scrutiny for travelling to and living in Canada alone for the moment. A “good Muslim woman”, as I’ve been told, shouldn’t travel alone or be alone. Because the immigration process has been lengthy and I left my family behind when my children were still young, there were times when I doubted myself and what I could achieve.

Despite all the challenges, I have had many beautiful and life-changing experiences during these years. I met so many great people, established my professional and social network, and built a supportive sisterhood with some great women like Svetlana Ratnikova, Mallika Sothinathan and many others. When things got tough, they encouraged me to keep going. They inspired me to work hard, and to visit beautiful places in fascinating Ontario and magnificent Quebec.

With such an encouraging support system, my resilience grew and allowed me to overcome all the challenges to live a happy life with my family now.

A Feminist and Gender Equality Activist, Azizah is an experienced Advisor with a history of working in the non-profit organization management industry. With a Master of Business Administration (MBA), she uses her skills in Policy Analysis, Government, Program Evaluation, Strategic Planning, and Strategy, to help organizations reach their fullest potential.


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