When young girls see examples of women in leadership positions, it expands their ideas of who they can become and what they can accomplish. In the midst of formulating dreams of their own, seeing people with shared identities occupy spaces that once felt unattainable allows them to envision the unique ways their voices and ideas can contribute to society.
In 2020, Hanifa started Free Women, an artisan group that employs Afghan refugee women in Salt Lake City, Utah. When Asifa, Hanifa’s daughter, saw this, it drastically impacted the way she viewed herself and what she was capable of. As Asifa watched her mother lead a team of 26 women, she developed more confidence in what she could become.
When Asifa and her family first arrived in Salt Lake City as refugees from Afghanistan, she never imagined that in six years' time her mother would be able to provide for her siblings by purchasing a house and going on family vacations. Before fleeing from an abusive situation, Hanifa’s former husband told her that she would never be independent. These words drive her work at Free Women, as she strives to create financial liberty for each artisan she employs through their own earned income.
View from the Salt Lake City Airport
Asifa continues to draw upon her mother’s strength, resilience, and innovation to inspire her to dream in ways she never thought possible. “My mom did not have anyone to support her,” Asifa explained, “yet I have watched her overcome so many difficult things. Seeing her start her own business and live the life she always wanted is beautiful. My mom and I have been on this journey together, and it makes me believe that if she can do it, I can do it too.”
Asifa (Left) and Hainfa (Right)
Prior to watching her mom work toward a vision for the future despite language and education barriers, Asifa’s own ideas for the future often felt unattainable. “I still dreamt,” she explained, “But it was different. I used to wonder if I could accomplish something, but since my mom has achieved her dreams, it makes me believe that I can build a future for myself as well.”
“I want to be a pilot.” Asifa said, “I would enjoy being in airplanes. But if not that, I would also enjoy working with refugees. The help from other people has really made a big impact on my life, and I want to do the same for others”
Though Asifa does not know exactly what the future holds, she knows she has meaningful things to contribute wherever she ends up. She knows this because she has seen the value that her mother to the spaces she occupies.