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Zainab Hassan's Experience As A Young Immigrant

"My name is Zainab and I’m a VP Finance for CAWI. I moved away from Pakistan with my family when I was about a year old and grew up here in Canada. Because I moved when I was so young, my immigrant experience doesn’t quite fit the traditional image of what most people picture an immigrant to be. Although I did experience discrimination growing up because I didn’t fit in with everyone else, I never had to struggle with a language barrier or adjust to a new culture and education system—I simply didn’t remember the old one. Despite not feeling “other” inside, I was often made to feel that way by those around me. The kids at my elementary school would make fun of my henna, mock my headscarf, and tell me to go back to my own country: all experiences that often lead to immigrant children feeling distant from their culture and at times, abandoning it entirely. Looking back, those experiences were, and still are, more effective in strengthening my bond to my roots rather than breaking it. When struggling with my identity, especially in a virtually homogenous province like Saskatchewan was at the time, it would have been nice to know I wasn’t alone. Returning to Pakistan for 2 years in my early teens helped solidify my understanding of the immigrant experience and the privilege I had been granted in experiencing it as a child rather than an adult. The struggles my parents went through in an attempt to integrate into a new country, find jobs, settle down, and form a community are something I will never fully understand but can absolutely appreciate the difficulty of. That’s why organizations like CAWI are so important: they provide a community, and support for those who would otherwise be lost without it in order to make sure that no one feels “other” in the country that is supposed to be a home away from home".

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