Art and writing competition winner, Shahira, speaks to ABC Illawarra.

Shahira spoke to Lindsay McDougall at ABC Illawarra about her life growing up in Afghanistan and the limitations on women’s education that have led her to value her education here in Wollongong.

Growing up in Kabul under Taliban rule, Shahira wasn’t allowed an education. Today, with a degree in literature and a Master in Business, Shahira has accomplished things that were never a possibility for her while living in Afghanistan.

Shahira spent her childhood hiding underground, hidden from the restrictions imposed on her by the Taliban. Education was something Shahira’s family valued but with no right to an education as a woman, Shahira learnt to read and write from her parents.

Today, Shahira is working at Zig Zag Hub, a worker space for young entrepreneurs in Wollongong. Shahira also spends her time volunteering at the Salvation Army and for Active Connections, an initiative established by SCARF and Illawarra Healthy Cities that encourages women from refugee backgrounds to get involved in outdoor activities and meet other women.

Growing up with little freedom to go outside and with limited independence, Shahira considers Active Connections to be an important initiative and something that she feels she is lucky to be a part of.

Shahira is also making change here within Wollongong. Shahira just recently won the Healthy Earth Art Competition by Red Cross and Illawarra Multicultural Services. Celebrating Earth Day and World Health Day, the competition celebrates the diversity of the local community through art and culture.

Shahira also recently took first place in the Adult Essay/Short-Story Category of the Illawarra Multicultural Services (IMS) Refugee Week Writing Competition 2021. “Unity, the way forward” was held in collaboration with the South Coast Writers Centre (SCWC) and the Australian Red Cross. 

We would like to congratulate Shahira on her accomplishments!

Natalie Wilkins
Author: Natalie Wilkins