Watching their daughters thrive: Najeebullah and Shukria’s Journey to Canada

Najeebullah and Shukria, with their daughters, arrive in Toronto in April.

For Najeebullah, the long, arduous journey from Afghanistan to Canada has been worth it to see the laughter and smiles on his daughters’ faces as they cruise around the first playground they’ve ever had the chance to play on.

An electrical engineer by training, Najeeb and his wife and daughters were forced to leave Afghanistan when the Taliban took over, seeking refuge in Pakistan. Mid-way through a master’s degree in electrical engineering and involved in several community initiatives in Afghanistan, the transition to life in Pakistan was not easy. Najeeb was not qualified to work as an engineer in the new country, and uncertainty over the future for his wife Shukria, and their daughters hung over him.

In early 2022, at a virtual career fair put on by a humanitarian group looking to support Afghan refugees, Najeeb learnt about TalentLift. For years, he had worked with Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, an NGO that advocates for women’s rights and education in Afghanistan. He knew from his work with the non-profit that Canada would be a better place for his daughters to grow and thrive, and now he had the chance to use his talents and education to get them there.

After careful consideration with Shukria, Najeeb interviewed for, and ultimately accepted an engineering position with Finest Telecommunication, a fibre-optic installation firm in London, Ontario.

A little more than one year later, in April 2023, Najeeb and his family landed in Canada, greeted by the Finest Telecommunication team and TalentLift staff member Zahra’a. 

For Najeeb, it was a relief to be able to use his education and training again with Finest Telecommunication, installing and repairing fibre optic cables at job sites across southern Ontario. “It was a gift for me to be back to work in my field, and to learn new things in the field of fibre in Canada,” he says.

His colleagues have been incredibly welcoming and supportive as he and his family settle in. Najeeb and Shukria have now earned their driver’s licenses, and she is taking English lessons at the local YMCA, which provides childcare for their youngest daughter. As a fashion designer and skilled tailor back in Afghanistan, she is hoping to open up her business again soon.

Their eldest daughter, now seven years old, struggled in her first month of school in London, but now Najeeb says, “she’s coming home from school every day telling me about a new best friend and all the things she learned in gym class.”

These sorts of opportunities for women could not be possible for his family back in Afghanistan, and that fact has motivated Najeeb’s continued involvement in education and women’s rights causes. Back in Afghanistan, he helped to co-found the Dehkada Library, a rural library and education centre which promotes literacy for all genders. The library is supported a variety of donors including Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, which Najeeb continues to work for, organizing fundraisers and awareness events, and coordinating a program for virtual learning for Afghans, called Darakht-e Danesh.

Even though the family has only been in Canada for a couple of months, Najeeb and Shukria have begun to take on a leadership role in the community, getting ready to welcome new Afghan families to London this summer.

Their schedule is busy, between Najeeb’s work with Finest Telecommunication, and Shukria’s English lessons. But they still find time to relish the freedom of life in Canada. “Our girls make sure we spend a lot of time at the playground, dancing and playing”.

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