Nest provides asylum to women activists

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

Maryam oneNest is sponsoring Maryam, her spouse and two small children. Maryam (pictured here) is an Afghan journalist specializing in gender and human rights. She also is a member of the persecuted Hazara minority. When the Taliban took power on August 15, they occupied the government office where she was teaching a class on gender rights. Maryam was forced into hiding. “Everything I worked for and dreamed for. . .ended,” she writes. “There will be no space for gender work in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. My own life is now at risk.”  Maryam and her family are seeking permanent residency in Canada. Nest is working to sponsor them with the assistance of the Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon. 

Nest also is sponsoring Afghan women’s activist Maria and her two adult sons who were forced to flee Afghanistan in late August. Maria, who worked for the UN, Oxfam, UNESCO and other international organizations for the last 20 years is now a refugee, seeking asylum in Canada. 

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 raised the required funds for their sponsorship. The family’s refugee application was submitted to the Canadian government in mid-September, they were interviewed by the Canadian High Commission in early November and completed their medicals on November 24. Nest hopes the family will arrive in Saskatoon in January!

Nest also is sponsoring Afghan activists Zainab and Abeda photo oneZainab and Abeda, who 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.

We have nearly reached our fundraising goal of $30,000 to sponsor Zainab and Abeda. Thanks to everyone who donated so far. Want to help? E-transfer your donation to: nesttreasurer2@gmail.com 

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. 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 President/ 608 28th Street West, Saskatoon, S7L 0L1. Please include your mailing address so we can send you a charitable tax receipt. Tell us which activists you want to support!

2. E-transfer your donation. Send your donation to: nesttreasurer3@gmail.com along with your mailing address so we can send your charitable tax receipt. 

3. Canada Helps. Send your donation to support these women activists through Canada Helps. Indicate who your donation is for! Canada Helps will issue your charitable tax receipt.

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