Mother's Day 23 - Zaheda



From fleeing her childhood home of Afghanistan to her current life as Head of Product Experience Platform at Atlassian, author and Australia for UNHCR Ambassador, Zaheda Ghani learnt the art of resilience and grace from her mother, retired business owner Rahima.

APRIL 2023

“The most vivid memory I have of my mother from childhood is of a bomb blowing up at the school where she was a teacher, and how hard I hugged her when I saw that she was safe. Throughout my early years in Herat, Afghanistan, she demonstrated time and again what strength and resilience looked like, but they were nothing compared to everything that came after we fled to India after the Soviet invasion, then moved to Australia when I was nine. With four young children she moved to a country where she didn’t know a word of the language, immediately enrolled herself in TAFE to begin a series of successful small businesses and took on the role of the family breadwinner."


"My mother has a strong entrepreneurial spirit, but she’s also incredibly creative – a beautiful storyteller and it’s a trait she fostered within me from a young age. She encouraged me to write and explore my creative side too, often translating Dari poetry and talking to me for hours about art and literature. That’s probably the genesis of what eventually became Pomegranate & Fig, my first novel published in 2022 Although it’s fiction, the central theme of moving from Afghanistan to Australia via India was based on my mother’s journey."

"Our relationship when I was younger was a traditional one of mother and daughter but now that I’ve reached my mid-40s, we’ve become more like friends and confidantes. After my father died seven years ago, my mum had to figure out who she was without him by her side and that was a beautiful journey to watch and support. We see each other once or twice a week and share a deep spirituality. She’s the one who always told me, ‘Just do your best and leave the rest to God’ and that’s the motto we both live by.

This Mother’s Day, I’ll be celebrating everything my mum has done for me and my siblings, but I urge everyone to consider refugees – mothers and daughters - fleeing war-torn countries who cannot celebrate what feels so simple and natural to us. Australia for UNHCR does a lot of amazing work with refugees as do RACS NSW (Refugee casework and Advice Service)."