With a small headscarf wrapped around her head and a school bag latched onto her bag, Afghanistan born – Shabnam Safa would undergo her daily journey to attend school with never missing a class, despite Pakistan’s hot climate during summer and the occasional snowfall during freezing winter conditions.
In 2009 before her family migrated to Australia, Shabnam Safa was living as a refugee in Pakistan. She’s now determined to raise awareness of causes that she’s passionate about, particularly issues and barriers that surround women.
“I was given a second chance by coming to Australia and I want to make full use of this opportunity. I was welcomed and supported as a newcomer and now I am driven to give back to the community as much as I can to show my gratitude.”
The 23-year-old student has achieved many of her ambitions from receiving her black belt in Karate in 2013 to which she holds National and International titles to being well-known in her suburb’s council and advocating for human rights.
Subjected to negativity and some discouraging feedback on her success, Shabnam is unconcerned of how others perceive her goals.
“There have been a few setbacks due to certain expectations from the community but none that would deter me from what I want to do and achieve.”
“I have been told off or mocked for not focusing on my studies and not completing my degree as soon as possible. I’ve been asked what I am planning to do with my life and as well as negative attitudes that show “all these volunteering and advocacy” as not being able to get me anywhere.”
Sympathising with students who are uncertain with their degrees and career choices, Shabnam remains hopeful that following your true passion will lead you to the right pathway.
“I have made many course changes ranging from engineering arts and international relations, I blame my indecisiveness but I believe I’ve finally settled with a career in the medical profession. I feel that it will really put together my passion for sciences and helping those around me.”
For someone who claims to be indecisive, Shabnam has made decisions most of us wouldn’t at such a young age. With the majority of the residents in her council City of Casey being under the age of 40, Shabnam decided to create her own campaign to run for the council election last year for Mayfield.
The Facebook page created, received over 1,000 likes from mostly young community members. With the ongoing support of her family, friends and other inspiring leaders she has worked with, Shabnam plans on conquering everything she was unable to in Pakistan.
“I had applied to represent Australia at the United Nations headquarters in New York for a leadership program. I had completely forgotten about my application as I continued with my daily life until one day when I was clearing my spam email I realised I had received an email from the UN.”
Some call it luck but Shabnam believes it is hard work, dedication and resilience that get you through to achieving your dreams. Still training karate and fitting in the intense workouts whenever she can, Shabnam applies her karate training mindset to assist her with overcoming tough challenges and big wins.
“I was chosen for the UN leadership program out of 15,000 other applicants. I could not believe what I was reading, it was huge. I thought to myself who would have known that the 14-year-old girl who came to Australia would one day represent this country at the United Nations.”
With half of 2017 almost passed, Shabnam has already travelled to Greece to view the refugee crisis first hand with a team of likeminded people where they all volunteered for a program called WISE.
Video provided by Shabnam:
Over the course of a few short days, Shabnam and her team listened to the stories of the stranded refugees in Athens where she learnt of the hardships families and young children experienced in attempts of seeking safety.
“I have met incredible souls from around the world and I’m very much looking forward to spending time this year working with them on an issue very close to my heart.”
As her ongoing dedication to giving back to the community and assisting refugees continues, Shabnam Safa has built herself an impressive reputation as she triumphs with success and positivity.