Kalsoom Jaffari

My name is Kalsoom Jaffari. I am from Quetta, a city in Pakistan. I have been living in Indonesia as a refugee since 2012.

In my home country, I worked with different national and international humanitarian organizations. All of these Humanitarian Organizations focused on human rights and women health issues and were associated with UNHCR in Pakistan.

The security situation was very bad in Pakistan, especially for the Hazara community. I am part of this ethnic community and I noticed that year after year the situation was getting worse. I am identifiable as a Hazara because of my skin color, facial features, the language I speak, the culture I carry, and my religious beliefs as a Shia Muslim. On top of this, I was also in danger because I was a working woman. I noticed that these personal characteristics were posing grave jeopardy on my life, my freedom and my emotions, which meant that I was living in constant fear. I feared persecution, being killed or being kidnapped and my movements were restricted and very limited because of these safety concerns.  I narrowly escaped from abductions in 2010.  As a woman, I cannot imagine the ordeal I or my family could have gone through if I had been abducted.

On 29th March 2012 when I saw Hazaras were massacred in front of my eyes I was so upset and terrified. On 10th January 2012 our house collapsed because of massive explosions. I narrowly escaped alive from the explosion. My maternal cousins were killed and injured. My brother and sister were also injured. I can never forget the fear I lived with when our house had turned to rubble and the roof had fallen in during those long cold nights and days. We even had to collect pieces and limbs of the blast victims from our house and put them in plastic bags.

After living in constant fear for my life for years, my mother contacted a human smuggler to take me and my brother to Indonesia. The smuggler got paid US$ 16,000 through my cousin. We departed from Karachi Airport for Malaysia and arrived in Jakarta on 2012.

Indonesia is one of the key transit countries in Asia Pacific with recent UNHCR (2020)figures suggesting that country is hosting documented around 15,000 refugees for living in the community , they face difficulties with day to day living such as finding enough food to eat,  in particular refugee women in Indonesia suffering from stress , financial problem and health problems .

In 2012 when I arrived in Indonesia, I established a small center for refugee women and children which is called Refugee Women Support Group Indonesia. I started English classes for refugee women and children to pass the time and the number of students continued to increase. During these classes, I realized that refugee women were suffering from reproductive health issues and with the help of my Australian friend I started health workshops.

Later on, two sewing machines were donated and we had 17 students with one tailor, so i started sewing classes. A group of Australian friends visited my class and they liked our pants so much that they bought some and took them back to Australia for their family and friends. Their family and friends kept saying they wanted to buy more pants because they loved them so much. That is when my Australian friends and I had the idea to start an Australian not-for-profit where we could sell our handicrafts online. In August 2016 we launched our non-for-profit called Beyond the fabric.

I kept my self-busy with the non-profit organizations and also engaged refugees women by attending sewing classes the Refugee Women Support Group women manage to earn a low income, therefore, empowering the women to learn new skills, earn some money for their families.

September 2019 , Gift Organization contacted me and said that we are sponsoring you and your Brother. We were waiting for this moment for 6 years. Finally we landed in Canada on November 14, 2019, The day of happiness and freedom form oppression and reunion with my sister after 6 years.

Happiness and warmth spread in our whole family and this was a very beautiful moment our life.

Gift Organization welcomed us, they took us home and provided everything that we needed “It just felt amazing. It was that support and that love allowed us to believe in our self and feel us safe.