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Guelph woman named among world's most inspirational and influential

BBC News agency's 100 Women list focuses on bravery and achievements of Afghan women
20210824 Nasrin Husseini RV
Nasrin Husseini, a researcher at the University of Guelph, fled Afghanistan in 2010.

Named one of the world’s most inspiring and influential women of 2021 by BBC News, Guelph’s Nasrin Husseini is among a group that includes a prime minister, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient and an acclaimed author, among others.

“Wow! It’s absolutely an honour for me to be on the list,” she said. “I was surprised and at the same time very happy.”

The global news agency announced it’s 100 Women list on Tuesday, with a focus on women from the Taliban-controlled nation of Afghanistan, which make up half the list.

“The resurgence of the Taliban in August 2021 has changed the lives of millions of Afghans – with girls banned from receiving secondary education, the ministry for women's affairs being disbanded, and women in many cases told not to return to work,” states a post on the BBC website. “This year's list recognises the scope of their bravery and their achievements as they are forced to reset their lives.”

Husseini fled Afghanistan and moved to Canada, settling in Guelph during 2010. She left her native country in large part to escape the discrimination she faced as an educated woman and as a member of the Hazara faith, one of Afghanistan’s largest ethnic minorities.

Though born in Afghanistan, she grew up as a refugee in Iran. Her family moved back after the Taliban was toppled from power in 2001.

She went on to complete a five-year veterinary medicine program at Kabul University before deciding to accept an American scholarship and then opting for life north of the border, where she completed her master's degree in immunology. 

She continues to work at the University of Guelph as a researcher as she studies to earn her veterinary licence.

BBC’s decision to focus the list on Afghan women is particularly pleasing for Husseini.

“The world is noticing and acknowledging what the women in Afghanistan are doing, especially in this tough situation with the Taliban,” she said. “I think that this will empower all of the women of Afghanistan, not just the 50 women because they can see that they are heard and people see them and love them, how brave they are advocating for women and working for them. 

“That means a lot to me.”

During her spare time, Husseini is a volunteer with Canadian Hazara Humanitarian Services, helping fellow Hazaras and others looking to resettle in Canada. Through a GoFundMe account, the non-profit organization is hoping to raise $200,000.

“We are waiting for more instruction from the government … which is a bit stressful,” Husseini said of the effort to sponsor refugees. “We are working on that. We are doing fundraising to settle as many families as possible.”

A fundraising event is in the works for Guelph, she noted, but details aren't yet finalized.

Others on BBC News agency's 100 Women of 2021 list include Malala Yousafzai, the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate; Samoa's first female prime minister, Fiamē Naomi Mata'afa; professor Heidi J Larson, who heads The Vaccine Confidence Project; and acclaimed author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.