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Making a difference as Refugee Woman of the Year

Malalai Rahim was chosen as Refugee Woman of the Year 2012. The title allowed the doctor living in Seinäjoki to be a spokesperson for refugees in Finland. Now Rahim says that the upcoming European Elections are an important platform for refugee issues.

Malalai Rahim. Image: Kaisa Väkiparta / Suomen Pakolaisapu

The Finnish Refugee Council chose the Afghan-born doctor and mother of five as Refugee Woman of the Year back in 2012. Previous to this, Rahim had worked as a physician in a refugee camp. She obtained her license to practice medicine in Finland in 2007. Currently she is working as a doctor in Seinäjoki, western Finland.

Looking back at her time as Refugee Woman of the Year, Rahim says the appointment gave her lots of opportunities to help refugees in Finland. She encourages her followers to be active, and says that many people are interested to hear the story of the Refugee Woman of the Year.

“I got lots of invitations to different kinds of events, where I could tell people about being a refugee and war, and about the kinds of problems refugees face that they cannot solve themselves,” Rahim remembers.

Over the year, she also became more familiar with different kinds of cultures.

“I’ve learnt a lot, got acquainted with other cultures, and I’ve been able to tell others about my own [culture]. I’m happy about that opportunity,” Rahim says.

Raising refugee issues in EU elections

Malalai Rahim wants to call attention to refugees’ issues in the upcoming European Parliament elections.  

“The EU election is a good place to raise refugee questions – reception centres, illegal border crossing, and so on. Many die when fleeing,” Rahim notes.

The Finnish Refugee Council has picked the Refugee Woman of the Year since 1998. In 2013, the title went to Burmese-born childminder Mi Mi Po Hti. According to the Council, the title is meant to support and encourage women, and to set an example for other refugees and asylum seekers.

Suggestions for Refugee Woman of the Year 2014 can be sent to the Finnish Refugee Council up to the 10th of February.

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