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An inspiring journey to freedom

It is my mission to encourage other young women to flee the Taliban’s regime and create a life for themselves in Australia.” – Marwa Moeen, ANZ Given the Chance Participant and a finalist in Rotary Young Inspirational Women’s Awards 2022.

In August 2021 the Taliban invaded the capital of Afghanistan, Kabul, seizing power and placing Afghan people in extreme danger, particularly women. Fearing for their lives, thousands of women and girls were hunted down as wives or sexual slaves to the Taliban.


Many women took refuge in the hope they’d be rescued before it was too late. Among them were 15 young female friends from university who found safety in a tiny, locked room inside Marwa Moeen’s home, where they endured a terrifying wait.


Marwa, born and raised in Kabul, was unfamiliar with a life in which women are denied the freedom to leave their home unless accompanied by a male relative. Prior to the Taliban’s return to power, Marwa was running her own business in Kabul exporting Afghan handicrafts around the world.


Her business was immediately shut down by the Taliban, simply because it was run by a woman. She could only dream of escaping to a place where women had equal rights, access to education and the ability to work freely.


As news of the invasion spread the globe, Addison Road, a small community organisation in Sydney became aware of the situation. Determined to do everything they could to rescue the women, together with human rights activist and former Socceroo Craig Foster, they arranged Emergency Australian Visas for Marwa and the other women.


Within two weeks the 15 young women were boarding a crowded plane to Australia.


Inspiring others


A little over a year later Marwa, a participant in ANZ’s Given the Chance Program, was nominated by the President of the Rotary Club of Sydney Cove, Scout Symons, to receive the Rotary International’s Inspirational Women’s Award for 2022.


Marwa has now been awarded the honor of becoming a finalist for a Young Inspirational Women’s Award for her outstanding contribution to the refugee community.


Marwa has worked tirelessly to rebuild her life and the lives of other young Afghan women in Australia. She is one of four inspiring young women to receive a Rotary Award for her selfless efforts to look after friends who fled Afghanistan and helped other young women escape.


Commenting on the award, Marwa says: “I couldn’t believe it - that I could achieve these things. I thought maybe I couldn’t win or be part of these four female stars. And then I was one of them. I was crying.”


Marwa now volunteers at Addison Road and as part of this work she visits Australian high schools, talking to and inspiring young people about her journey to freedom.


“It is my mission to encourage other young women to flee the Taliban’s regime and create a life for themselves in Australia,” says Marwa.


Marwa has made appearances in Australian media where she continues to share her incredible story, raise awareness of her experience and the work of Addison Road.


After an interview with respected radio presenter and political correspondent Fran Kelly, Marwa was inspired to switch her studies to journalism. She received a scholarship to study a Bachelor of Arts in Communications (Journalism) at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), which she was granted by the CEO of Media Diversity Australia, Mariam Veiszadeh.

Pictured: Marwa on Studio 10 sharing her story and the work of Addison Road

Given the Chance


In July 2022, Marwa started a traineeship at ANZ’s Blacktown branch in Western Sydney as Banking Consultant through the Given the Chance Program.


A social enterprise led by Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL), Given the Chance helps refugees and asylum seekers gain employment and training in various industries in Australia.


ANZ partnered with BSL to launch the program in 2007, initially in Victoria and has since expanded it to include New South Wales and Tasmania. More than 350 participants have been welcomed to the bank on 6-to-12-month placements. Many of these have led to either permanent employment with ANZ or great career opportunities at other organisations.


ANZ’s target for the 2022 financial year was to host 45 participants through the program and we are delighted to have already hired 55 employees in various roles across the bank.


Speaking about the future, Marwa hopes to be a good representative for her family and her country.


“I would love to keep working for ANZ and stay as long as some of the long-standing employees I hear about,” says Marwa.


Watch Craig Foster’s documentary about Marwa and her friends' incredible story: Die or Die Trying

Author Olivia Huntingdon is an Inclusion Program Manager at ANZ

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