Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Angel From Sierra Leone

Having escaped the brutal civil war in Sierra Leone a few years ago, Khadija Gbla is gradually coming to terms with her new life in Australia. But there are enormous challenges and, of course, exciting new opportunities.

With a strong sense of right and wrong, Khadija speaks eloquently about the plight of African women in Diaspora; focusing on women rights and gender relations. (She obviously knows what it means to be a refugee, based on her own personal experience.) She can feel their pain. And she shares their aspirations for a better life.

Meanwhile, she honestly believes that something must be done, and very quickly too, to soften the pain of transition.

“I want to stop the suffering”, Khadija muses as she reflects on the enormous challenges facing the new arrivals and the significant problems of survival in the land Down Under. “I want to work with people and make a difference…why can’t we have equal opportunity?”

Yet, Khadija is only 17 years old. A young woman who knows a thing or two about the struggle for women’s rights (and men’s responsibilities in gender relations), and who projects a wholesome image of youth and vitality, with a natural beauty to match.

She is an enlightened child of the universe who is wiser beyond her years; and who is extremely proud of her dual identity as an African-Australian.

“I like the Australian culture and life-style…This is a good and peaceful country”, she says. “But we need a multicultural education system that works for everybody…a system that meets the needs of women; especially the new arrivals”.

Khadija is an idealistic young woman with an angelic voice and a cheery disposition; a daughter of the revolution (so to speak) and one of the shinning lights in the emerging African community in Australia.

“We must aim at the top”, she says, without much ado. “We can’t make changes in society by staying permanently at the bottom”. This sentiment is shared by the overwhelming majority of African youths in Australia.

But there are other fundamental issues in Khadija’s universe which must be noted; such as the preservation of cultural identity.

“How do we pass on our language and culture?” That’s the question that has pre-occupied Khadija’s fertile imagination in the past few years. “Something has to be done for the future generation…We must preserve our cultural identity, as Africans”.

In a refreshing flourish of humanitarian rhetoric, Khadija talks at length about the welfare of the new migrants and refugees. She really wants to help those in need. And she wants to do community work in order to improve the living conditions of African women in Australian society.

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