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My Model Citizen(s): A Group of Nine

3 minute read

In this year’s Asian Heritage Month blog series, we honour role models who have had a profound impact on our lives. The title “Model Citizen” invokes a reclaiming of a term that is often used to label certain minority individuals as aspirational based on stereotypes and assumptions. In this series, you will read stories about real people who have been real role models to us.

Sarah, Sadaf, Zahra, Sana, Kareena, Amena, Mahnum, Yumna, and Leena. We are a group of nine cousins, all born within a decade and bound together by our ancestry. I am grateful to our grandmother who brought our mothers, and us, to life.

Sarah is from Cheeni. She is our eldest and bravest sister. She supports our every decision, and always feels like home. Sadaf, well, she is from Dolly. She is best described as soft-hearted and jolly. Her work ethic is unparalleled, and her dance moves are sublime.

Zahra is from Sumra, the youngest aunt of 11 siblings. And Sana is from Amira, our quirky sunny girl. She loves a good adventure, and likes to be polite. Kareena, technically our niece, comes from cousin Syma. Kareena is creative, and also very bright.

Amena is from Dolly. Her energy is fierce. She has your back through thick and thin, and always keeps it real. Mahnum is from Amira, her wisdom is sincere. She always comes with presence and fills us all with hype.

Yumna is my sister and she’s from Sumra too. She fights for what she believes in, and might make you believe in it, too. Leena is from Dolly. She completes our group of nine. Her power is her pen and her art is her might.

While months can go by without being together, it is a kind reminder to have a support system that will be there, without asking, through your highs and your lows. This group of nine is a unique sisterhood, and for it I am lucky. No relationship between each of us is the same, and yet when together, there is a sweet sense of harmony.

There is an understated understanding between female cousins that often goes unspoken, and it is both a power and a privilege to have such a bond. I don’t think anyone else quite grasps the duality of the world we exist in as South Asian women in Canada, inside and outside of our families. We had unique challenges, as we grew up in a time where conversations around mental health did not occur openly. And sometimes, we were made to feel like we failed because we didn’t follow the stereotypical timelines our community imposed on us. But, we have always had each other to confide in.

It is and has always been grounding to know that you are not alone in your experiences, and a relief to find comfort in loved ones who you can truly trust. It’s through these kinds of relationships that many of us have gained the courage to work towards what we believe in, and become who we truly are or want to be.

Age is no indicator of impact and each of these women have served as role models to one or more of us in this group of nine, and I am sure this will only continue as life presents new challenges. These women are a gift to our family and to our world, worthy of celebration all-year round. They are not just cousins, but mentors, advocates, and motivators. They contribute to my well-being and are some of my biggest cheerleaders. And, I hope I fill their cup as much as they fill mine.

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Zahra Vaid

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