June 7, 2018

10 Questions: Sirwa Farik

Sirwa Farik is Finland's Refugee Woman of the Year.

  1. What constitutes a perfect morning for you?

When there are no worries or stress when waking up.

  1. As you are running a project on life and employment for refugees, what would you say is the best way to integrate newcomers into Finnish society?

To get them involved in different parts of society and to try to get their education and their professional skills to benefit their new society. It is also important to get newcomers acquainted with the environment and the different phenomena of society, and lead them into the education system if necessary. Moreover, it is desirable to have less bureaucracy for people with diverse skills and competencies but who are lacking the necessary papers and permits.

  1. When you came to Finland for the first time, what was the first thing that caught your attention?

I noticed so many things at the beginning. First of all, the fact that many values we were fighting for and sacrificed ourselves for in Iraq already existed in Finland. We were talking a lot about respect for human dignity, but only in Finland I finally experienced it in practice. Nevertheless, I noticed that there is still much to be achieved here in Finland.

  1. You have been awarded the title of Refugee of the Year for 2018. How does that make you feel?

It feels nice that my work has been noticed and appreciated. But at the same time, the award brings unpleasant questions to my mind, such as why should there be refugees in the world at all? While I got a new start and this recognition, there are millions of refugees in the world who are struggling to survive day after day.

  1. What does your typical day look like?

I work in the daytime on the Iraqi Women’s Association’s TeKo project. In the afternoons, my children’s hobbies keep me busy, and after this I take care of the housework with my husband. Sometimes different meetings and other activities with various partners fill my days. For example, I was helping the Iraqi Employment Association IRTY last weekend with their participation at the World Village Festival [in Helsinki]. In addition, reading books and continuous co-operation with my friends to achieve a better world are part of my everyday life.

  1. What inspires you?

When you notice that work has produced something good. Successes and achievements have always inspired me. Also, the fact that I am surrounded by incredible people with whom I am able to make the impossible possible.

  1. When are you at your happiest?

The less people suffer, the happier I am. All my life I have fought for different rights. The results here bring happiness to me. Dancing and spending time with family and friends are important and happy moments for me.

  1. It’s often said that Finns are difficult to get to know but very loyal as friends. How did you make your first Finnish friend?

I don’t agree with this stereotype, instead I see every human being as an individual regardless of their background. Wherever I have been as student, employee, volunteer etc., I have made a variety of friends from different backgrounds.

  1. How would you describe yourself in five words?

Tireless, co-operative, punctual, helpful, social.

  1. What has been the most memorable project during your volunteering career?

During my life I have done volunteer work. In Iraq, I worked for women’s and refugee organisations. Many of the things we were fighting for at that time – such as equality between women and men – were taboos and we were considered inappropriate, and hence our lives were not worth much. But we did not give up, and ultimately, under pressure, the worst opponents had to give up. These efforts we have made in our own time, living in poverty without any support and in the face of intimidation, always remain fresh in my memory. And in Finland, working with the elderly has remained in my mind, especially how they are trying different ways to adapt and learn new things.


Photo: Ilmari Fabritius


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