Helay Rahim

Helay Rahim

I arrived to France in 2016, with no prior knowledge of the French language which led to endless obstacles in terms of finding housing, employment and navigating the administrative system.

It was not long before I realized the importance of language if I was to succeed in my host society. I let my adversity motivate me to fully immerse myself in language learning through working as an Au Pair, tutoring children in English. This experience allowed me to be employed, housed as well as learn the French language within the first year.

Witnessing the transformative power of language, I recognized its role as a barrier for many Afghan asylum seekers who lacked similar opportunities. Driven by a desire to bridge this gap, I volunteered at a legal clinic, providing interpretation services for Afghan asylum seekers navigating administrative and legal processes. Drawing from my own experiences, I sought to ensure that others did not face the same challenges that I encountered.

My journey continued as I pursued higher education, earning an undergraduate degree in International Relations and Oriental languages in 2021. Throughout my studies, recognizing the importance of linguistic support in various settings, I established my own company, freelancing as an interpreter at reception centers, hospitals, and law firms. This experience culminated in a year-long position at the l’Office Français de Protection des Réfugiés et Apatrides (OFPRA), where I facilitated communication between asylum seekers and protection officers.

Continuing my higher education in 2021, I began pursuing a Master’s in International Governance and Diplomacy with a specialization in Human Rights at Sciences Po – Paris School of International Affairs. This decision was motivated by a strong sense of responsibility to acquire the skills and knowledge needed to drive meaningful and long-lasting structural change.

Having the privilege to complete my higher education in France, I am dedicated to ensuring that no one is left behind in the pursuit of education and I feel a moral obligation not to leave my Afghan sisters behind. I therefore came together with three other like-minded women (Susan Cartwright, Alice Schuette, and Evelyn Isaia) and founded Hila Initiative, an NGO dedicated to empowering Afghan women by overcoming their current restrictions. We provide former women university students with vital access to online English language training, in order to enable further academic pursuits or professional opportunities and facilitate their autonomy.

We stand firm in our belief that education is a fundamental human right and a powerful tool for social and economic empowerment. By equipping Afghan women with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed, we are also breaking the cycle of poverty and gender inequality in Afghanistan. Additionally, by fostering a spirit of sisterhood and global connection, we are contributing to building bridges between communities and promoting a more inclusive and equitable society.

“Hila” signifies “Hope” in my native language and it fully encapsulates the aspiration this initiative holds.

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