NGO Academy Member Story #5: a portrait of Zahra Hashimi

“If I can help merely four girls in Afghanistan to go their way of education and to start a career, then my goal is reached.” Those are the words of Zahra Hashimi, who found refuge in Austria with her parents and her four siblings in 2015. Today, she is one of the most important women and human rights activist in the Austrian-Afghan community. At the moment, she is building up an online school for girls in Afghanistan, the Omid online School. It already teaches over 100 students with an internationally connected base of voluntary teachers.

© Murtaza Elham

Zahra studied math before having to flee from her home country due to the Taliban. The way from Afghanistan to Austria was hard, the story no different from those of other refugees – but with an impressive ending. 3 years of asylum procedures, learning German, being a translator, tutoring in English and math in Persian, Hindi and German. Later, after arriving in Vienna, she trained as an office administrator and finished a course in video journalism. In 2021, projects in Farsi for the ORF news and the mirror project followed. “It was a long and arduous road, with plenty of resentments, but I kept on going.” Today, Zahra works for Fremde werden Freunde as Community Manager and Content Producer, networks with other organizations and conducts interviews for the podcast JourneyStories. In 2022, she founded the above-mentioned online school, a project very close to her heart.

“It is important to me that we don’t only talk about refugees from the outside, but that we can talk about ourselves for ourselves. Who knows about afghan women in Afghanistan or in Austria? Their sufferings, the forced marriages, the violence they encounter? About the oppressions in Afghanistan’s patriarchal society? Under the Taliban today, girls between grades 7 to 12 are not allowed to go to school. That has to change. The sufferings of afghan women has to end and that can only work through education. That is my approach. Let’s change the suffering of women, let’s change the world.”

This article was written by Réka Primuszné, Renate Ungar and Stefan Steinberger as part of our Regional Programme workshop “It’s the media, stupid”, a course on media and PR in May 2022. It appeared in its original language German in the Austrian newspaper “Der Standard”.