Roya Shams, 19, was brought to Canada in 2012 thanks to funds raised by the Toronto Star and its readers for the charity Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan. While still in Kandahar, Shams had taken an entrance exam to get into Ottawa’s exclusive Ashbury College, a boarding school that had offered her a full scholarship. Now, weeks away from getting her Grade 12 diploma, Shams is looking forward to studying at uOttawa, with support from the Roger Guindon Scholarship Fund.
Shams will study at uOttawa’s School of International Development and Global Studies, in the Faculty of Social Sciences. She hopes to pursue a career in international law.
“Since the age of 11 I wanted to help other girls and women who didn’t have the same opportunity as me to go to school and pursue careers,” says Shams. “After my dad’s assassination, that was when everything got dangerous. I was not able to attend school any more … I was not allowed by my mum and family to go out.”
Shams took courses online and, with support from Watson and the Toronto Star, she came to Canada to study at Ashbury College. She says she has dreamed of studying at uOttawa one day and now that dream is coming true.
“Right now, I cannot express how happy I am,” says Shams. “I love languages and it is a bilingual school in the capital of Canada. Everything that is going on there touches upon my interests.”
Shams says she enjoys debating, especially international issues, as well as volunteering, and plans to pursue both at uOttawa. She says she continues to draw inspiration from her father.
“I was really young, maybe five years old, when my dad was a police officer. I would take his scarf and put it on my head and be very happy,” says Shams. “He inspires me every day to do better for women and other human beings.”
Asked whether she might one day return to Afghanistan and put her education into practice there, Shams says, “I have so many goals — promise less, deliver more. That’s my code. I will serve humanity wherever it is to be served. Whether that is in Afghanistan or in Africa or even if it is in Canada. Any limited contribution that I can make to other people’s lives, I would be more than happy to do so, because it took a lot for me to get where I want to be.”
Read Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Paul Watson’s Toronto Star piece about Shams’s journey from Kandahar to Ottawa.