Zartasha is is a pseudonym. Her name was changed for this story to protect her privacy.
Zartasha, a recent arrival from Afghanistan, shares her experience settling in Canada as a highly ambitious refugee navigating significant life changes. This is her story;
“I’m Zartasha. I’m originally from Afghanistan and I moved to Canada in April 2022.
In Afghanistan, I was a director in the finance department of the government and the only female at the decision-making and strategic level.
Moving to Canada was not a choice for me but due to the unexpected change in the country with the Taliban takeover, I had to move for safety. We had everything, and in the blink of an eye, we lost it all. It was hard to cope with that, but I had people around me who helped. We shared stories at nighttime, and daytime, and we cried. I felt tired. It’s not just about me, but the whole country, our people, and our futures. For Afghans, it’s not the first time we’re leaving our families behind and starting from scratch.
I have always been the change-maker in my family. I had that sense of independence from an early age. For Afghan girls, going to school and then continuing education in university was a big deal. Not only did I have to convince my family, but I also fought everyone in our society for my right to education.
I’m proud of each step I took in my life. I don’t regret any of my experiences. That’s the reason I’m a strong woman today.
Of course, starting a new life is challenging. I was desperate to find a job. Most of the jobs recommended to me in Canada were basic compared to my experience. It was discouraging.
Over the past few years in Afghanistan, we were building everything from the ground up. The work I was involved with was more technical and difficult to accomplish, but I did it. It is much easier to accomplish tasks here; the systems already exist. Neglecting the much harder work I’ve done in Afghanistan because I don’t have Canadian experience seems unfair.
Even finding a home was difficult. Landlords require more proof from us [newcomers/refugees]. They don’t trust we can keep up with rent. Canada says it’s welcoming and open, but there is a lot of mistreatment. So many people here are immigrants or come from immigrant backgrounds, yet it doesn’t feel welcoming.
I’m grateful for the organizations [in Canada] because they provide relief for those with no connections, those feeling lost after coming from desperate situations. Even just talking to them gives me hope. I applied to Welcome Talent Canada program at Jumpstart Refugee Talent and was introduced to a great mentor.
In the beginning, I was concerned that I was matched with a random person, but she turned out to be an inspiration for me. She had a similar educational background to mine and guided me bit by bit through so many things, including building a new resume. Now, I’m working with Metro Vancouver on a short-term project as a technical assistant in the finance department.
I have big dreams for myself. In the future, I want to get a Financial Analyst certification and start my own business. In the long run, I see myself as the CEO of a large corporation. I believe I can do more for others, that’s what inspires me.
For me, education is important. It’s so easy to access information and learn new things nowadays. I would advise refugees to navigate some online courses and build new skills. If you really want to go somewhere and be someone, you must continue to improve your skills. Keep educating yourself, have a positive mindset, and don’t give up.”
For more information about Jumpstart’s Refugee Welcome Talent Canada Program, visit https://jumpstartrefugee.ca/programs/wtc/