Nest provides asylum to women activists

An Afghan women’s activist who worked for the UN, Oxfam, UNESCO and other international organizations for the last 20 years is now a refugee, seeking asylum in Canada. 

Maria and her two adult sons fled Afghanistan in late August.  In a letter to the Canadian government, Maria said she was in urgent need of support. “I am particularly at risk as a single Afghan woman who has worked abroad for international organizations  ‘without a mahram’  for many years.”  She asked the government for assistance to “save my life.”

Maria’s appeal to the Canadian government went unanswered.

But Nest, the Mennonite Central Committee and more than 100 individuals responded to Maria’s plea for asylum. In less than a month, Nest had raised the required funds for their sponsorship. The family’s refugee application was submitted to the Canadian government in mid-September and they were interviewed by the Canadian High Commission on November 5. They now are waiting to complete their medicals and travel documents. Nest hopes to welcome the family to Saskatoon in December.

Nest is working to sponsor three more women activists: two from Afghanistan and one from Sudan, who were forced to flee due to their work for women’s equality.

Afghan activists Zainab and Abeda worked in a government office in Afghanistan committed to reconciliation. When the Taliban took control in August, their office was closed.  “I am in a life-threatening situation because I am a women’s activist, who criticized Shariah Law before the Taliban takeover,” says Zainab.

Abeda also worries about her safety. The Taliban are looking for her. Once she finds asylum, Abeda says she can “eat grass and sleep on the footpaths, but I have to escape this life threatening situation here.” Both women are members of the Hazara ethnic minority.

A group of Nest members is fundraising to sponsor Abeda and Zainab to Saskatoon. So far they have raised $14,000. We need $12,000 more.  

Social justice activist Wafaa Idress worked for women’s equality in Sudan, where women continue to fight for freedom, dignity and justice. In early 2000, Wafaa defended the rights of women to education, and freedom from marriage at a young age. She and the other members of her women’s groups were harassed and detained by security forces for “encouraging women to disobey their husbands.”   When Wafaa completed her nursing degree, she  was barred from employment in Sudan. Faced with no employment or better future, she sought asylum in Saudi Arabia, where she continues to face discrimination.Sudanese protestor

In September, Nest agreed to sponsor Wafaa and her family to Saskatoon.

Wafaa’s aunts Ebtsam and Safia Elsheikh and her sisters Safaa and Alaa also were forced to flee Sudan over the past decade due to their commitment to women’s equality. They now live in Saskatoon.

Want to help bring these women activists to Saskatoon? You can donate in three ways:

1. Mail your cheque payable to Nest Saskatoon to: Nest/ Augustana, 1201 Broadway Avenue, Saskatoon, S7H 2A4.  Make sure you include your mailing address so we can send you a charitable tax receipt.
2. E-transfer your donation to: Nest Treasurer Marwa (along with your mailing address for tax receipt) to:
3. Canada Helps. Send your donation to support these women activists through Canada Helps. Canada Helps will issue your charitable tax receipt:

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