Tahmina is a photographer from Afghanistan. This is her story! 

Minor editing for conciseness and clarity*

I moved to Canada in summer of 2019. It’s hard (laughs) when you’re coming from Afghanistan where the culture is different. To be on your own was hard enough. This was the first time [I was] living without family. I did not know anybody. From the day I came to Canada, I faced many challenges. Those challenges helped me mature. I’m happy I had this opportunity because I learned about my own abilities. Nowadays, I have many friends in Canada (laughs). Day by day, things are getting better, and life is going very well. The only thing that makes me sad is when I hear news that there is another explosion near my family’s house. Imagine being away from your family and they’re living in a dangerous area. This is my reality, and I’m happy they’re okay.

I was a storyteller through photography in Afghanistan. Some people have a misinformed perception of Afghan women. That we are uneducated, violent or other negative [stereotypes]. I would like to tell them: Read our stories! We are educated, we do work hard, we do make changes in Afghanistan. We are lecturers, photographers, doctors. I think it will be amazing to highlight refugee stories and experiences, specifically the work and impact they’re making.

The most challenging aspect of settling in Canada is the professional one; I have experience and I have previously taught documentary photography. The challenge is figuring out what to do next. I wanted to work as a documentary photographer, [but realized] things were a little different here. Most photographers are working in the wedding or commercial fields. I found it a little hard to work as a documentary photographer in Canada. So, for now I work in retail.

I am considering whether to pursue another Masters’ & PhD, or another profession altogether. I’m trying to find my way. I am currently preparing for a Masters’ or PhD program in Communication and Culture.

A personal achievement since I came to Canada was learning to ride a bike. It might seem like a simple thing. Just yesterday, I bought my first bicycle, and I cycled for 7 KM – on my first day! (laughs). Besides that, I started some English and French classes because being bilingual opens more opportunities in Canada.

I first heard about Jumpstart Refugee Talent through one of my friends, Sohaila. She told me there was a credential evaluation program that would accept my documents. I assumed that credential evaluation would take about 6 months, and that I needed to send original documents to the Ministry of Education. Many people from Afghanistan are not sending their documents because they anticipate this process to be difficult. When I applied for my WES evaluation, 15 days later, I received my credential evaluation. It was really helpful. My friends were surprised at how efficient it was.

My message for newly settled refugees is: You can reach your goals and should use the opportunities available in Canada. Canada is a lovely country with lovely people. My message for the government and non-refugee people, if they can give more opportunities to refugees, I think it would be great. There are so many talented people from different countries, and they can be helpful.

For more information about Jumpstart’s WES Gateway Program, visit jumpstartrefugee.ca/programs/wes/