Last night I attended my second Western Alumni event in Toronto at the Rosewater building. First off, let me say how much I have so far enjoyed these evenings. Western U Alumni your hard work and dedication to reaching out to past Western students makes me feel purple and proud all over again. Thank you for providing an extraordinary experience.
Last night, Juggun Kazim gave an emotional inspiring talk about her journey from Pakistan to Canada when she was 17 to attend Western U. She didn't know anyone at the school. She knew it was a good school but that was it.
When talking about her culture she says, "I am Pakistani. I am Muslim. I am Canadian. But first - I am a human being [...] religion has nothing to do with who you are."
This was the basis of her entire talk: the Power of Human Beings.
From a privileged family, Juggun said she never would have ended up with such a successful career in the media without having attended Western U. She strongly believes that Western provided her not only an education but a lesson on being human: "Western teaches you how to be an extraordinary human being."
"The only way the world will respect you is if you respect yourself" - Juggun Kazim
During her time at Western, she enrolled in the Western Work Program to help pay the international fees. She says it was heart warming dealing with all the wonderful people who worked at Western. They laboured endlessly to make sure she could stay in school. All she had to do was give back to the purple community.
After graduating, she entered the media sector in Canada, much to her family's distaste, and flourished as an actress. This was not without its trials. At this point she laughed. Working as a new Canadian actress in Canada, she was either auditioning to play a "desolate" Pakistani woman - to which she said her skin tone was not dark enough for - or she was invited to audition to be a Canadian - which she also laughed and said she was not "Canadian" enough due to her accent. Being stuck in limbo, and feeling slightly spent, her agent suggested to change her name to J. It seemed to work and she landed a role in a film and two stage plays.
She returned home shortly after. She was quickly engaged and married to a man from home. I will leave this part of her story out as she has asked the people who were present last night to keep this part private. But I will say she went through an extremely rough patch in a bad marriage (really bad).
She must have seen the shock and sympathy in our faces. She replied slowly and said (and I paraphrase here) the reason I don't talk about this is because this is something that happens everywhere. It does not define me as a Pakistani woman. "You have to get over it and move on."
From here, she got out. She left and pursued her media career as a Breakfast television host: Mornings with Juggun Kazim.
She remarried. "I don't have to look far outside my home to find inspiration." And she pointed to her husband in the audience, "that man there deals with me in all my crazy and erratic moods."
She ended her tale by saying an amazing array of inspiring words:
"Work from the inside out." - (paraphrased) everyone says to think outside the box. I say become the box and slowly help to reshape the world around you to bring about change.
Her biggest conflict now is changing the perception at home (Pakistan) of being a woman who is both "beautiful" and intelligent." Most people tell her that she can't be on screen and be those two things synonymously. You have to be very careful saying what is on your mind, she told us. She has found that using positive reinforcement is the safest path.
When talking about serious issues such as child molestation, she said she can't come out and just say it point blank. She has to instead guide parents by insisting to care and listen to their children. To watch over both their young girls and boys.
"Send kindness forward, give back" - Juggun Kazim.
Being the ultimate nerd that I am, and having now a massive female crush on Juggun (who is a fellow purple warrior) I asked her to sign my copy of the Western Alumni gazette.
I shared an experience I had and she told me: "whatever you do, do not be silent. Always talk to someone about your experiences and share."