Standing up for rights

UNICEF Australia Young Ambassador Rahila Haidary.
UNICEF Australia Young Ambassador Rahila Haidary.

The self-described ‘cheeky’ child even dressed in her uncle’s clothes so she could attend school with the boys.

Ms Haidary is now advocating children’s rights, especially the right to education, as part of her role as a UNICEF Australia Young Ambassador.

‘I really want to stand up for kids whose rights are being taken,’ she said.

‘I want to stand up for the rights of children who live in Australia but the Australian government has forgotten that they live here,’ she said.

After being selected as an ambassador from more than 250 applicants, Ms Haidary spent four days training in Sydney with nine other young Australians.

She hopes to visit schools to hold workshops, give talks and share her experiences.

These include growing up under the threat of the Taliban, where she said her family was ‘considered strangers in our country’ because they were Hazara people, a minority ethnic group in Afghanistan.

When she was seven, Ms Haidary’s father took her to Pakistan to live with relatives as he believed her life was in danger in Afghanistan.

Her mother and four younger siblings stayed but after her grandfather was killed in 2008, her father was warned that he should leave Afghanistan as the Taliban had sent people to kill him.

The rest of the family was sent to Pakistan, where they had no contact from her father for six months and had no idea of his fate.

‘We thought he was dead. He’d found someone who said ‘I’ll save your life but you have to give me all your money’,’ she said.

Her father arrived in Australia in 2009 and two years later Ms Haidary and her family were granted humanitarian visas.

‘It’s amazing to be in a place where you feel safe. I’ve come through a hard life but now have a chance to help children like me and give back,’ she said.

‘Children are the present and the future of our country.

‘A country without strong children, or without a focus on children, will have a worse future.’