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My name is Aisha Sheraz Loun; I identify as a Pakistan New Zealander who is now a New Zealand citizen. I was born in Pakistan, where my family, relatives and ancestry originate from. Before I became a New Zealander, I experienced a challenging resettlement journey that took all of 3 and half years. It started in 2013 when we were forced to flee as a family from Pakistan to Thailand because of the ongoing Discrimination against my Ahmadiyya sect. We sought asylum for resettlement opportunities in the third resettlement country and ended up in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

My family and I became New Zealanders in July 2016, when we received a Permanent Resident visa while waiting in Bangkok. When we arrived in Aotearoa/New Zealand, in 2016, I did not know much about New Zealand. Immigration New Zealand provided the orientation video. I did some Internet research, and that is all.

I like Aotearoa/New Zealand because of the Environment. It feels safe here, especially for women; it is a very safe place, and nobody asks you where you are going or what you are doing. Most people are friendly and loyal towards you and guide you in the right direction. The landscape is very beautiful, with lovely natural places. The best thing about Aotearoa/New Zealand is the support I received from Immigration New Zealand.

What I do not like about New Zealand is the Discrimination and racism I face in society, including in university and in my neighbourhood. I know they are in the minority. There are many Non-Ahmadiyya Families here from Pakistan in my area who also try to discriminate against us, but other Muslims are treating us very well. One time, a Kiwi Islander shouted out at me in my neighbourhood, kicked my car and used swear words and said bad things about me being Muslim. Later, when she got to know me, and I told her my life story and who I am, she became really good friends of our family. Now even we share meals.

I faced challenges in my settlement and integration process. I did not know how to drive. In my culture, women mostly do not drive, but with my husband’s disability, I had to take on the challenge. I have learned driving and it was not easy. It was very expensive to learn, but now, Alhamdulillah, I got my full license. The language was also another problem, but I still tried my best and learned even though I have 3 kids and a husband to take care of. I went to university, and I completed my level 3. I also have completed the hairdressing level 3 study, and now I am studying in level 4.

I miss my homeland of Pakistan with its beautiful landscape, people, and families. I especially miss my father, relatives, and friends. I also miss my Pakistani Food. Even if you can make some food at home, you still miss the street food—places like Parks and amusement parks, my Masjid Qobotran wali.

My message to new residents, who have experienced a similar journey, is to try your best to maintain your hope, resilience, and high expectations of what you will achieve in the short, medium and long term in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Please be loyal to the system and Immigration. Try to help yourself rather than relying on the community or anyone else. Please learn the language and how to drive, because, without these things, you are disabled. If you think you should not drive because you are a woman, consider yourself useless here. I would also like to give another piece of advice: Please stick with your culture and please wear your traditional clothes and do not try to adopt other cultures, because then you will be left without any.

My message for local Kiwis: Love for all, Hatred for none. Please do not discriminate against us; I hope the atmosphere will become more inclusive one day. The everyday resident of New Zealand should consider us an average Kiwi.

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