A conversation with Hina Shehzadi
Earlier this week I had the pleasure of meeting up with Hina Shehzadi, a 2016 Coady International Institute diploma program graduate and a passionate activist from Pakistan who is now back in Antigonish to do her Masters of Education. It was wonderful and inspiring to hear what she had to say about women’s rights, the culture of Canada and Antigonish specifically, as well as why she is working towards getting her PhD in the coming years.
Hina is from Karachi, Pakistan, a city of 26 million which makes it one of the largest cities in the world. Before her arrival in Canada, Hina had been working on women’s rights initiatives in Pakistan for eight years. Her work was centered around women’s empowerment and leadership which was included, but not limited to discussions around sexual and bodily rights and reproductive health. These topics are often seen as controversial to discuss in Pakistan; yet she was involved in a variety of different national and international nonprofit organizations in her country over these years that took these focuses.
Hina’s work brought her to Montreal in 2015 where she attended the Equitas training program on International Human Rights. At this training, she met Janet McDonald who is a staff member at the Coady International Institute here in Antigonish. It was here that she decided to pursue the diploma program at the Coady in 2016.
During her time in Antigonish, Hina reflects on having the pleasure of meeting many passionate and powerful women in the community as well as her love of being in a small place where everyone knows each other, a place where one seldom feels isolated or alone.
“I spent 6 months in the Antigonish community last year and as a new comer and woman of colour, I found this community to be very welcoming and supportive, particularly when I was organizing the International Cultural Event in November of 2016.”
It was a big change coming from a city of 26 million in Pakistan to a town of approximately 10,000 in rural Canada, but she is excited to be here again.
Hina finished up her diploma with Coady last year but when attending Take Back the Night in 2016 she met with Joanne Tompkins, the Education Program Chair here at StFX who specializes in First Nations, Inuit, and Cross-cultural Education as well as Instructional Leadership. Hina tells me she had always had an interest in teaching and upon hearing about our program from Tompkins, she decided to pursue a Master’s Degree in Education. When I asked her why Antigonish, of all the places she could do her masters, she explained:
“I have had opportunity to travel to Europe, The U.S., Asia Pacific, Turkey and several South and Central Asian countries. If [I] compare my living experiences in these countries to Canada, I would like to share that I always felt safer in Canada. I have yet to encounter any incident of racism or inequality, people always helped me whenever I needed and encouraged me to learn and continue my education here."
When I asked her hopes for the future and what she wishes to pursue she explains:
“I want to give back to the community in Canada by teaching young generations because it’s getting more diverse and open to welcoming people from different backgrounds, race, identity and religion. I am planning to do my PhD in Canada after completing my master’s degree and looking forward to serve in a Canadian university as professor, if I get any opportunities in future.”
Because of her background in women’s movements and rights, Hina hopes to be able to teach Women and Gender studies at the university level. As a Women and Gender Studies student myself I was so excited to hear that we had an individual in our community that would be pursuing a career in this program. It would be so amazing to have such a passionate, kind and smart woman of colour teaching in the program, fingers crossed she stays here with us at SfFX for years to come! I would like to thank Hina for sharing with her story with us and wish her the best of luck with her studies and pursuits in the future.