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Interview for

Safeena Niazi


Interviewed By:

Hana Widerman

Date Interviewed:

Audio Recording of Interview
00:00 / 1:15:46

An immigrant from Afghanistan, Safeena describes her relationship to employment and tradition, as well as the process of adjustment to the United States. She also details her journey of building a community in her hometown raising a family during the pandemic.

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Other interviews of this person can be found below:

Additional Notes

Narrator: Safeena Niazi

Date: 07/02/20

Location: Lowell, MA

Content Warning: Minor discussion of wartime strife in Afghanistan.

Summary: An immigrant from Afghanistan, Safeena describes her relationship to employment and tradition, as well as the process of adjustment to the United States. She also details her journey of building a community in her hometown raising a family during the pandemic.

Topics: Family, childhood, education, employment, politics, gender, immigration/resettlement process, cultural adjustment, pandemic, religious practice (tradition), community, achievements/future, culture/cultural adjustment/cultural differences


Section 1: (00:00:00 - 00:08:21)

  • Family, Childhood- Lived in Afghanistan with parents, seven sisters, and one brother; parents very supportive of education and working; started working in 2004

  • Education, Employment, Politics - Started working after quitting school; it was difficult for employers to find employees, and females could work after the end of the Taliban regime

  • Employment, Gender - At first, did not believe females could not move to higher positions, but then this idea changed for her. She became an office manager, and built confidence in this position. She continued to work in supervisory roles for a while, but eventually moved to developing/fixing HR policy.

  • Family - Around and after 2014, she gets engaged and married, and starts a family.

Section 2: (00:08:21 - 00:16:31)

  • Employment, Family, Education - Worked, raised a family, and was pursuing her bachelor’s degree at the same time. But her in-laws didn’t always want to tell people that Safeena was working and being educated - it was a concept kind of foreign to them.

  • Employment, Immigration Process - Employment was a big part of her immigration process. She didn’t have any difficulties coming. She worked for Chemonics and would travel to DC, and had the dream to work in the DC Chemonics office

  • Immigration Process - Applied through a program called SIV, eventually came to the US in December 2017.

Section 3: (00:16:31 - 00:22:24)

  • Family, Cultural Adjustment - Cultural adjustment wasn’t too challenging, because she already had family in the US who had adjusted and supported her.

  • Resettlement Process, Family, Education - First lived with her family for a while in MA. Father chose the state because it was an education state with good schools. Then the International Institute of New England found her a house, but they rejected because the family did struggle and wanted to be near one another. Eventually found a house very close by.

  • Family, Employment - Husband takes care of laundry and the kids often; she is able to work part-time because her family is very supportive.

Section 4: (00:22:24 - 00:27:24)

  • Pandemic, Education- Pandemic was difficult for them at the beginning, especially for the kids with education. Took a parent class during the midst of the pandemic, which made her feel better, because she realized she was not alone in the difficulties posed by the pandemic. Kids able to spend time with others in play groups on Zoom, and understand the danger of the virus.

Section 5: (00:27:24 - 00:31:24)

  • Religious Practice (Tradition) - Husband’s family is very focused on tradition, but her family is not, but she does observe the clothing traditions out of respect for her husband’s family. They do “practice” Eid with their children, because her mom thought it would be good for them to learn about the traditions associated with it.

Section 6: (00:31:24 - 00:35:54)

  • Family, Education, Cultural Adjustment - Safeena was amazed by her daughter’s and son’s progress in learning English, and especially for her daughter, how she is learning to express her feelings. Safeena is also learning about feelings/how to express & control them and teaching her children what she is learning.

Section 7: (00:35:54 - 00:48:14)

  • Employment - Safeena was offered a job as an interpreter at the International Institute of New England. Before she had her job, she was feeling stressed, and concerned that she would not be able to spend her own money the way she wanted to. They are very flexible with her, and she feels at home there. Was actually introduced to early intervention programs for her children through her job. At the time of interview, two of her children were entered, she was planning to enter the third.

  • Employment - Started to work in a public school; got involved in the different play groups and activities as a home visitor. For this program, she works about 10-12 hours per week.

  • Community, Achievements, Future - Earned the Change in the Community Award, was very proud of this accomplishment. Also earned her drivers license while in the US. She was told by someone she knew that to succeed in the US, you need to keep your plan/set goals. She wants to obtain her master’s degree now.

Section 8: (00:48:14 - 00:50:05)

  • Politics- She was hopeful about the political situation/the election of 2020. She did not seem to want to stress about who would become president, but just seemed to accept whatever the result would be.

Section 9: (00:50:05 - 01:15:45)

  • Community - Home and community have helped her a lot. She was happy to help with the public school program, visiting people’s homes. Head Start (for her children) has helped her a lot too. Believes that the more you are involved in the community, it will increase their and their children’s knowledge. Trying to bring other Afghan families into the community.

  • Cultural Adjustment, Community - Someone (her mother’s instructor) from the community explained to them the culture. Emphasized how important it is to ask for help in understanding the culture.

  • Cultural Adjustment, Cultural Differences - In America, she can go anywhere by herself; very different from the culture in Afghanistan - she had to be accompanied everywhere she went there.

  • Culture - Safeena’s independence in the US has grown. Used the example of first not being able to drive, but now having her driver’s license, and being able to shop for herself, work, etc.

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