Khalidha Nasiri is the Executive Director of AYEDI where she is responsible for overseeing the overall operations, management, and success of the group. She has an extensive background working in research, advocacy, and community organizing. This includes leading a local leadership program for underprivileged youth, working for a federal Finance Minister, serving on grassroots organizations such as Scarborough Transit Action and The Canadian-Muslim Vote, and representing her riding of Scarborough-Guildwood with Equal Voice’s historic 2017 Daughters of the Vote initiative. Khalidha started AYEDI because she strongly believes in the potential for young Afghan-Canadians to become leaders and advocates in their communities. She hopes to break down the barriers that our community encounters in accessing spaces to express our voice and develop into leaders.
Khalidha is a second-year medical student at the University of Western Ontario. She has a Master’s in Epidemiology from McGill University and has interned at the World Health Organization. Her hobbies including reading non-fiction, Taekwon-do, drinking double doubles, and travelling. She writes on her personal blog at www.behindthemd.com.
Marjila Yousof is the Vice President of AYEDI where she is responsible for setting the group’s overall strategic objectives and direction, and working with the Executive and Advisory Board to deliver on AYEDI’s mission and vision. Her work to date has been shaped by that which she is most passionate about: improving the economic, social and cultural positions of women and girls, and encouraging the civic engagement of Afghan-Canadian youth. She is driven by a desire to identify and address the many and often times compounded barriers one may face to civic engagement – as a woman, a minority, a young person, and/or an immigrant. As a Policy Consultant, she has worked with YWCA Toronto Girl’s Centre, advocating for government investment in girls. Prior to this, she worked for a Member of Parliament and managed all activities of the Canada-Afghanistan Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group, including promoting the expansion of positive relations between Canada and Afghanistan, liaising with the Embassy of the Republic of Afghanistan and keeping updated communications with Global Affairs Canada officials on the Afghanistan program. Prior to becoming Vice President, Marjila served on AYEDI’s Advisory Board as a Political Engagement and Outreach Advisor.
Marjila earned her Master of Public Policy from the University of Toronto, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, and her Honours Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from York University. By leveraging her academic and professional experience she hopes to support the building of a future where the voices of Afghan-Canadian youth are amplified. Marjila strongly believes in AYEDI’s mission and the importance of creating meaningful platforms for knowledge sharing, civic engagement, and advocacy. She is looking forward to bringing her expertise and passion to her new role with AYEDI, and to continue creating spaces for Afghan-Canadian youth to actively engage with and participate in.
Ferozan Nasiri is AYEDI’s Outreach Director where she is responsible for developing and maintain positive relations with community groups and stakeholders. She has been active in local and international communities. She was previously a mentor and project assistant for the First Generation Program at UTSC, has led after-school programs in Scarborough, and recently worked as a teacher in China for one year. Ferozan is involved in AYEDI because she believes that Afghan youth are capable of civic engagement and creating meaningful platforms. Ferozan has a Master of Arts in Adult Education and Community Development from OISE and is passionate about being involved in projects that focuses on centralizing narratives of communities in media and the arts. She currently works as a provincial youth outreach worker. Her interests are photography, archery, traveling to different parts of the world (most recently, Japan!), visiting galleries and museums in different cities, and practicing personal and physical wellness.
Zohal Mirzanabat is the Internal Director of AYEDI where she is responsible for overseeing the logistical aspects of event planning and meetings, and making sure guidelines and procedures are being met. Zohal is an active member of AYEDI because she believes that youth in our communities should have a platform to become leaders. Zohal is a Dental Hygienist and is dedicated to improving the oral health of communities. Her hobbies include working out and reading.
Veeda Tanwir is the Events & Sponsorship Director of AYEDI. She is responsible for managing event logistics and overseeing AYEDI’s sponsorship strategy. She graduated from George Brown College in 2017 with a diploma in Event Management and a certificate in Wedding Planning. Since then, Veeda has worked on a variety of events ranging from conferences and charity events to galas and trade shows. She wants to use her skills to bring seamless and meaningful events to the Afghan community. She believes in the impact of conferences, workshops and networking events. She joined AYEDI to bring together her passion for events and serving the Afghan community. Outside of events, she also works as an artist, creating works exploring her identity.
Robina Hafizy is AYEDI’s Communications Director where she is responsible for their external communications. Robina has always been very passionate about politics, activism and civic engagement; therefore, she has volunteered with the constituency offices of MPs and MPPs and has actively participated in political campaigns. As an Afghan‐Canadian, she is interested in opening the door for the Afghan‐Canadian community to encourage their participation in contemporary democracy through the act of voting and beyond the ballot box. Robina is an active volunteer in the Afghan-Canadian community. She is passionate about building the leadership capacity of Afghan-Canadian youth in the areas of civic engagement and social development by giving them access to a range of resources and practical tools to help them embed community skills development. Her interests include reading books, and having intellectual discussions about poetry, religion, spirituality and healing.
Robina has a background in the public service and is currently the Corporate Communications Officer-Issues in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry Ontario. Robina earned her Postgraduate Certificate in Government Relations from Seneca College and Honours Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Law & Society from York University. She is fluent in Farsi/Dari and English.
Banin Abdul Khaliq is an AYEDI Program Director where she is responsible for providing project leadership on the development, coordination, and implementation of AYEDI programs. Since earning her degree in psychology from York University, she has dedicated her efforts to the non-profit sector; her interests lie at the intersection of criminal justice issues and mental health. Through her work, she delivers the court diversion program at the Newmarket and Bradford courthouses while also facilitating psychoeducational programs for probation and court-ordered youth and adults.
Outside of work, Banin volunteers as a Programs and Engagement Co-Director at STAND Canada, a national, youth-led advocacy organization working to make ending and preventing genocide a cornerstone of Canadian foreign and domestic policy. She also provides grief and bereavement support to youth through her local hospice.
Banin hopes to use her extensive experience in youth and community work to further support the growth of AYEDI programs and foster an environment that empowers Afghan-Canadian youth to be leaders and active members of their communities. Banin’s hobbies include writing screenplays, re-watching nostalgic Jackie Chan movies, and hanging out with her grandma.
Yasna Taieb is one of AYEDI’s new Program Directors! In this role, she will be assisting with the coordination and implementation of AYEDI’s exciting Afghan Youth Mentorship Program, Afghan Community Impact Incubator, and upcoming programs. Yasna attended McMaster University for Honours Life Sciences, however two years into her degree, decided to pursue her lifelong goal of becoming an airline pilot. She enrolled into an accelerated program through the Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre in conjunction with the Conestoga Institute of Technology and is nearing completion of her required licenses. Upon completion, she plans to complete her degree and continue with graduate studies.
While being a student pilot, Yasna is a Canadian Forces Reservist working in the Cadet Instructor Cadre as a professional development coach for youth aged 12-19 years old in the Royal Canadian Air Cadet Program. During the year, she teaches Ground School to students applying for their Glider and Private Pilot Licenses, and during the summers is employed at Canadian Forces Base Trenton where she helps lead the Aviation courses for more than 200 youth from across Ontario.
AYEDI’s mission aligns with Yasna’s – she aims to help prepare first and second generation Afghan-Canadian youth for the real world through interview preparation, professional development and field-specific mentorship. Through sharing her experience and passion for change with AYEDI and simultaneously fostering an inclusive and fun environment for youth to develop their skills, Yasna strives to help break the ceilings that were made to limit our Afghan youth.
Yasna loves travelling and has a long bucket list that she is excited to continue working towards. She continuously contributes to the aviation and aerospace industry on a national and international scale, and is very excited to work with AYEDI and help develop our Afghan youth of tomorrow!
Marwa Saleem is AYEDI’s Social Media Director, where she manages all of the social media accounts, develops branding strategies, and enhances AYEDI’s online presence. Her passion for community development has grown from her intersecting identities as a visibly Muslim, Afghan woman. Over the years, Marwa has organized countless successful international events, charity campaigns and virtual programs. Most recently she founded the Afghan Youth Book Club and took on the role of Community Outreach Lead with Supportistan by Afghan Youth. Marwa’s leadership has earned her the first Furmli & Mansuri Family Award for Afghan-Canadian Youth. In terms of her professional experience, she works as a Communications Assistant for The Secret Marathon and Social Media Manager for Red Gold of Afghanistan and Ascia Sahar.
Outside of work, Marwa literally runs for her life – she trains in Athletics (Track & Field) to compete in international competitions representing Afghanistan. Marwa is currently pursuing an Honours Bachelor of Arts, double majoring in Political Science and Kinesiology & Health Science at York University.
When she isn’t working on a new project you can find her chilling with chickens, baking fresh naan, and drinking chai with ice cubes. As the youngest member of the executive team, Marwa hopes to use her unique position to amplify the voices of Afghan youth and leverage her expertise to strengthen AYEDI’s online presence and overall impact.
Irena Faiz is AYEDI’s Graphic Designer. Her role consists of illustrating and designing the brand and look of the organization. She has been freelancing for four years and is a recent graduate from OCAD University with a major in Graphic Design and a minor in Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation. As a designer she has a deep passion in creating sleek and aesthetically pleasing designs. Before starting a project Irena likes to invent stories and fantasy scenarios, trying to figure out how each piece will live in the world she creates. Her inspiration for design comes from her love of science fiction movies and deep fondness for ancient history. Irena loves to incorporate her heritage with modern design and continues to use Canadian, Middle Eastern, and Islamic art in her work. She wants to show the world what it means to be an Afghan designer and how an individual from the diaspora can harmoniously meld together both cultures through her work.
As a first generation Afghan Canadian, Irena believes it is our responsibility to rewrite our past and pave the future for our youth. Through her work as a designer she hopes to help, guide and give Afghan youth a safe community where they will be able to find themselves and create a better future for them. As an artist Irena hopes to encourage more Afghan youth to embrace the rich heritage they come from and help to open more doors for Afghan youth to be a part of the art and design community.
Irena is a proud plant parent who is passionate in creating home jungles and collecting unique and beautiful house plants. In her spare time Irena is a member of the DIY community and enjoys building and flipping furniture, as well as decorating and interior design; her favourite rooms to remodel are the bedroom and bathroom.
Hadia Rafiqzad is AYEDI’s Research and Evaluation Director where she is responsible for designing and conducting evaluations of their projects and programs, carrying out literature reviews and jurisdictional scans to identify key issues and support AYEDI’s advocacy priorities, and perform research and analysis related to AYEDI’s strategic objectives. Hadia is pursuing her Honours Bachelor of Science, majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Biology and Psychology, at the University of Toronto.
As a Clinical Research Assistant at the Toronto General Hospital with the Kidney Health Education and Research Group, Hadia works to identify, raise awareness of, and carry out projects aiming to eliminate psychosocial and ethnocultural barriers to living donor kidney transplantation. As a Community Development Coordinator for the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, Hadia works on policy, research, and public education in Toronto, addressing anti-Black racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia and all forms of racism and discrimination in the fields of education, health, justice, labour and governance.
Previously, Hadia was a research volunteer with AYEDI where she conducted literature reviews to support AYEDI’s evidence-based approach to program evaluation. In her new role, she hopes to contribute to the identification of, planning and evaluation of initiatives that address the needs of Afghan youth in the GTA and empower them through mentorship, skill-building and educational events. Hadia’s hobbies include drinking coffee, reading, writing poetry, and baking!
Our Advisory Board
The Advisory Board functions to provide advice and support to the Executive Board.
Wares Fazelyar has been an active member in the Afghan community through his involvement with the Afghan Students’ Association at the University of Toronto and the Afghan Women’s Organization. He is most proud of having helped set the foundation for a platform to celebrate and recognize Afghan artists and creatives in Toronto. Wares became involved with AYEDI because he wants to help, Afghans – youth, in particular – develop a stronger capacity to participate in civic life and influence policy. He believes that we each have a part to play in trying to ensure that forthcoming generations inherit a better world than we did. Wares has a deep fascination with history and languages, he enjoys taking walks through the city, and he plays the rubab as a hobby.
Frishta “Fresh” Bastan is a spoken artist, passionate activist, and religious coffee drinker. Inspired by her Afghan background, Frishta uses her poetry to raise awareness about social justice issues from both at home and around the globe. She facilitates workshops called “Poetic Resistance” that teaches and encourages attendees to express themselves safely in poetic form. Her art has been recognized by many, including most recently on CBC’s Metro Morning. Frishta has most recently published her first book, Sher that made it #1 on Amazons Hot New Releases: Poetry by Women, #3 on Amazons Best Sellers: Poetry by Women, and #8 on Best Sellers: Poetry. All author proceeds of Sher are donated to a local women’s shelter.
Aside from her art, Frishta is involved in various forms of activism for over 15 years, proudly serving her community and as an ally for marginalized groups of people. Frishta aims to encourage Afghan youth to amplify their voices by engaging in their civil duties, which she hopes to further advance with AYEDI. Frishta also holds a Masters degree in International Relations from the University of McMaster.