My father died 7 years ago. Unfortunately, in Afghanistan, when a woman loses her husband, she has no rights. And as they are not allowed to be educated, they cannot take care of their children by themselves. Instead the brother of the husband will automatically take over in taking care of her and her family.

Our uncle tried to do this to us. He beat my mum, me, and my three sisters, and said he was going to marry us off to some older men for the dowry money. At that time, I was 16.

My mum didn’t accept that. One day, she just told my sisters and I that we were packing up and going to Pakistan. It was a very terrible time. We had to leave everything behind. It was really scary – our mother with four daughters. But she is so strong. And she had big dreams for us.

We lived in Pakistan for two years. It was a very hard time in our lives. But finally we were accepted to come to Australia as refugees. I felt very good when we arrived. We were placed in Coffs Harbour, and we found the Australian people very friendly and supportive, and the beaches and the landscape beautiful.

I was already 18 by then, but I wanted to go to high school, so I went into year 10. At the same time, I worked as a volunteer in a refugee office, and at a primary school as an interpreter and a support worker with refugee children there. It was very challenging to do all of that at the same time as studying, but I loved it. I wanted to be busy, and help the people around me.

After high school, our whole family moved to Sydney so I could do my Bachelor of Business here. When I finish, my dream is to start a social enterprise or other business which can help widows in Afghanistan. In some ways, I feel like these women are my family. I can feel their pain, nervousness, fear – the feeling that they have no value in this world. But I want to change all that.

My mum gives me so much support and encouragement. Even when we are facing a lot of problems, she encourages us to be active in the community. She always says, ‘You can do this. You will achieve this.’ She is amazing.

I want to tell the Australian people that we, as refugees, are thankful for the kindness and the support that has been given to us. But we are not just lying down and eating. We are here to support others, and to make a difference.

Arrived 2013

Photographer: Anne Casey

Why not get your friends and family something meaningful for Christmas this year? The beautifully photographed, heartwarming second New Humans of Australia coffee table book is now available:

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