Those who know Rabia Khedr can attest to her exuberant nature, zest for life and passion for helping others. Setting a prime example for those around her, there is no obstacle in her life she hasn’t overcome with faith, optimism, and hard work.
Ms. Khedr is currently a candidate for City Councillor, Ward 4 Mississauga, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Muslims with Disabilities and Board Member of the Federation of Muslim Women.
In recognition of her community volunteerism and human rights activism, Rabia Khedr has been awarded many medals and honours, including Women’s Intercultural Network Award (2014), Outstanding Community Woman of 2013, Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012), Woman of Resilience Award (2011), Ontario Outstanding Asian-Canadian Award (2010), and many others. Her profound message to those around her is to always see the humanity in others first, by looking beyond differences to seek similarities.
Lanterns was honoured to sit down in conversation with Ms. Khedr to learn more about her inspiring story:
Lanterns: What inspired you to go into the field of politics?
Rabia: I majored in Political Science alongside Industrial Relations during my undergrad at UTM in the early 90s. I was very passionate about global issues and very conscious of what was happening in the world. In fact, right after my convocation on June 17, 1993, I made the decision to wear hijab. I was planning a career in human resources and dabbled into it initially. Times were tough to break through into corporate Canada in the mid-90s. I had always said to myself that I wouldn’t do anything with disability since we had enough of it in our personal life.
Allah (SWT), the Master Planner, thrusted me into community work which I saw as accidental or coincidental at the time. I ended up working in disability organizations at the grassroots level. One day, I quit my full-time job because it was no longer making a difference. It was becoming exclusively bureaucratic. I started up my own business doing training and research that I felt makes an impact on the lives of people. The greatest gift I have from Allah (SWT) is communication and power of the language both oral and written.
I have spent endless hours volunteering with organizations both in the mainstream and in the Muslim community. I founded organizations. I helped organizations grow and develop. I served on boards and committees. I have been the chair of the City of Mississauga Accessibility Advisory Committee for 8 years. I ended up challenging a redevelopment application in my neighbourhood and found that the voice of residents was not heard often unless we organized and advocated for ourselves. I had an issue with having to fight to be heard.
As taxpayers, as residents, as citizens, this should be a given on part of our elected officials at the municipal level. Nevertheless, we fought the developer and one. I decided that it was time to enter public office at the city level. It is important to provide a strong voice for residents to balance out stakeholder interests when decisions are made that impact our quality of life.
Lanterns: What kind of struggles and challenges did you face?
Rabia: Entering politics has its challenges. When you are not running under a party, you lack resources and the know-how. We learned by doing. Alhamdulillah, I discovered that lots of people believed in me last year when I ran. With 25 days to go with the by-election, I am finding some wonderfully committed people coming on board to make this victory happen with their time and with their money. However, we do lack an intentional institutional approach. Because our organizations have been under scrutiny, they are not willing to take the smallest of risks to ensure they support their own; something other communities are doing for their own.
Lanterns: What was the best moment of your political career?
Rabia: Meeting people, talking to average residents, and raising awareness. I have been making headlines in the local paper without it always being a Muslim issue.
Lanterns: What’s your advice to everyone out there who wishes to contribute positively to society through hard work and persistence?
Rabia: Communication conquers almost all differences. As long as we cherish our freedom to believe and allow the laws of the land to guide our behaviour (Allah SWT expects us to honour the laws of the land for the most part), we will succeed. Don’t have a chip on our shoulder waiting for the world to discriminate. Be confident and comfortable in our skin. Always lift others when you climb.
We’d like to thank Ms. Khedr for taking the time to speak with us. If you’d like to know more about her campaign, visit http://www.rabiakhedr.ca/.