Waseema’s story

Waseema escaped religious persecution in her home country, but the challenges didn’t end once she arrived in Australia. May 02, 2023

In Pakistan, Waseema was a speech therapist and a member of the persecuted Ahmadiyya community. She lost two jobs after her employers discovered her faith, and was even forced to hide her religion from friends.

She fled to Sydney alone in 2019 and managed to find casual work, but lost it months later when Covid-19 hit. She quickly fell into crisis, with no family or government income support.

“I had not enough money to pay rent and nobody to support me at that time. In those days, I applied for many jobs but nobody gave me work because of my (temporary visa) status,” she says.

Waseema turned to the Asylum Seekers Centre for help. She says she accessed all the services available, including financial support, food, subsidised Opal travel cards, mobile phone recharges, and recreational activities such as sewing classes and swimming lessons.

She also received support from the ASC’s employment service. Last year, she obtained a casual job as a light rail customer service officer through the ASC’s partner organisation Transdev.

In February 2022, Waseema’s refugee status was recognised and she received a permanent visa. She then had her speech therapy qualifications formally recognised in Australia, bringing her closer to her dream of returning to the profession.

“I feel my actual life is starting now,” she says.

“I’m still in the surviving position. I still don’t have enough income, I need more work. But I’m happy.”

Waseema did not feel safe as a woman in Pakistan, and appreciates the security of life in Australia.

“I am very safe, very relaxed, I put on weight, I’m secure. As a lady, I can travel home from work at 12 o’clock and feel safe. Nobody abuses me or grabs my bag,” she says.

Waseema says support from the Asylum Seekers Centre and other organisations, including House of Welcome, helped her to establish a new life in Australia.

“When you come here, you have nothing,” she says. “Now, I feel stronger. These organisations made me strong and gave me a lot of confidence. Otherwise, I was very weak at that time. I didn’t understand where I was going at that time.”

“The team at ASC respects me, they talk to me, they give me good suggestions, they appreciate me.”

Waseema with ASC CEO Frances Rush. Images: Erin Black
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