Born and raised in Afghanistan, Adeena Niazi was a lecturer at Kabul University until she received a scholarship to study in India. Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, Ms. Niazi could not return home and became a refugee. Never forgetting her own experience, she supported clandestine schools for girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan during the rule of the Taliban, when education for girls was forbidden.
In 1988 Ms. Niazi travelled to Canada where she worked with the Afghan Association of Ontario assisting refugees until 1994. In 1990 – convinced that women’s issues were not being addressed – Ms. Niazi founded the Afghan Women’s Organization (AWO) in Toronto. Under her vision and leadership as Executive Director, AWO has created important opportunities for Afghan refugees by offering language training, settlement services, an employment program, and refugee sponsorship in Canada. The organization has also played a vital role in advocating for the rights of women and children who continue to live in Afghanistan.
She is also one of the founders of the Canadian Coalition in Support of Women in Afghanistan. In June 2002, Ms. Niazi was one of two Afghan Canadians elected to Afghanistan’s Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly). Maclean’s Magazine recognized her as one of the top ten Canadians in 2002. The many awards she has received recognise her contributions and community work – spanning more than a decade – and the countless volunteer hours she has worked for Afghan refugees.