Meet Parisa | ASRC Telethon Hero 2024

“I was born in Afghanistan in the first era of Taliban,” Parisa says. “I opened my eyes in a country where being a girl was a crime, where I had no rights.”

Parisa’s mother, a highly educated and independent woman, had been forced to abandon her career under the first Taliban regime. When the democratic government came to power, she focused on her daughters’ education.

“My mother was always talking about how it’s important for a woman to be independent and educated,” Parisa says. “She tried to motivate us to learn and be educated, and she provided other opportunities for girls to study, like underground schools. She was the hero of my life who always inspired me to do more and fight against gender inequality.” 

Parisa considers herself lucky to have come from an open-minded family, with a father who was supportive of women’s education. 

In Afghanistan, Parisa began her university studies in politics and law. After graduating, she started working for various organisations providing education to women and girls but, in 2021 when the Taliban seized power for the second time, history repeated.

“What had happened to my mum happened to me,” Parisa says. “I had again no rights to do anything – go to university, do work or anything else.”

With no prospects in Afghanistan and her safety in jeopardy, Parisa and her family made the heart-wrenching decision that she should leave.

Her early experiences motivated Parisa to learn more about gender issues. After arriving in Australia, she had an opportunity to pursue her Master’s degree through Monash University, focusing on gender, peace and security. As she delved deeper into the topic, she began to realise that gender inequality wasn’t exclusive to Afghanistan or any particular country.

“Every day in Australia, we are seeing violence against women, domestic issues and gender inequality in different spaces. I think wherever you are in the world, as a woman you have the responsibility to fight for gender equality,” says Parisa. “If there is just one woman suffering in the world we are not done with the advocacy work. This is my passion.”

The ASRC surprised Parisa with a glimpse of her biggest dream for the future.

Parisa’s long-term dream is to provide education pathways and resources to women and girls who otherwise would not be able to access education. Her dream even extends to having her own educational institution providing education to women and girls in need.

“Refugee girls have a desire to continue their education but they can’t because of all these new responsibilities they are having. So they can’t really do what they want to do and most of them don’t have access to higher education. And that made me think about how we can help them access all this education, resources and institutions.”

When Parisa shared her dream, the ASRC team put on their creative hats. With the help of artificial intelligence image generators, we created a portrait of the real Parisa placed in her future dream.

This portrait is a glimpse of her dream of leading an educational institution where girls and women can access education and knowledge without barriers.

For Parisa, World Refugee Day brings to mind the individuals who were forced to leave their loved ones, their homes, their countries and careers to start new lives in new countries.

“World Refugee Day is an opportunity to acknowledge their sacrifices, their struggles and experiences but more importantly what they bring to the country and the value they add to the community,” she says. “I feel proud and connected to the country and am proud to be part of this community.”






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