SARA Shengeb’s story inspires all those around her; the Eritrean refugee is on the cusp of graduating a double major in psychology at UWA, and is a tireless advocate for young people.
The 24-year-old Wellard resident spoke at Methodist Ladies’ College (MLC) in Claremont ahead of International Women’s Day (IWD).
“I had a relaxed upbringing, but when I was 10, I was exposed to what was going on under the surface,” she said.
“I was part of a political family, my dad didn’t agree with the government and went into exile; we were continuously harassed.”
Ms Shengeb told the MLC students Eritrean teenagers serve in the military at 17, with harsh consequences if they disagreed with the labour work they were assigned.
Her mother wanted her children to live a different life.
“My mum didn’t want the reality in Eritrea to be our reality; she took a step that could have taken her life,” Ms Shengeb said.
“Women are taking charge of their families around the world, and I saw the struggles my mum went through to make sure we were safe and had opportunities.
“IWD is a chance to celebrate the bravest women I know.”
Ms Shengeb fled Eritrea with her mother and sister and went to Ethiopia, where her mother spent the majority of her time trying to get her daughters into school.
Three years later, they came to Australia.
Ms Shengeb was awarded the inaugural Geoff Rasmussen scholarship for her university studies, named in honour of the Perth corporate leader who passed away in 2016.
While at university, she has been involved with the Catalyst Youth Summit and Shout Out, giving voices to young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds.
“You can do it; you can take the initiative to step out and speak,” Ms Shengeb said.