Student Spotlight: Khadija Ghanizada

“I just randomly wake up, and I’m like: I don’t like this. And I’m going to do something about it. And I just do it.” 

Khadija Ghanizada, a third year EUS major, has spent much of her time at Bard advocating for what she believes in. Through Bard EATS and her own projects, she has been able to understand how involvement on campus is as easy as being passionate about something. Whether this be by creating clubs or making events around campus, Khadija’s work has managed to both raise awareness on certain issues and push students to care about what they truly care about. 

Bard EATS (Education, Advocacy, Transparency, and Sustainability) is described as a “collaborative partnership among Bard students, dining services, faculty, and staff committed to making our food systems on campus more sustainable and equitable.” Khadija began working with them when she was a freshman as a zero waste intern, when the focus generally revolved around Kline meals. She is now the co-chair of BardEats, and has overseen much of the exciting changes taking place within the program. 

“Their whole focus shifted last year (…) mostly related to food justice. [They were] thinking about food insecurity on campus” as well as different accessible dining options for students. It is through various council meetings concerning these topics that Khadija met Sara Deveer (Outreach Coordinator and Special Events Administrator for the CCE). 

This semester, BardEATS has been focused on Migrant Worker’s Justice. The program held a virtual conference where various migrant workers discussed the movement known as “Milk with Dignity.” The movement in itself focuses on securing “dignified working conditions in dairy supply chains” including Ben & Jerry’s. 

“We are also focusing on the waste system on campus, and the food system. Caring about the food insecure communities and students on campus has been really rewarding. To see the food pantry grow, and see a lot of students utilizing that resource.” 

When Khadija is not busy co-chairing BardEATS, she finds other ways of getting involved with the community. The Afghan Women’s Advocacy Project was started last year, but has since then continued to see waves of support from the community. Khadija and Sonita Alizada’s TLS Project Arezo (meaning “wish” in Farsi) began the efforts to send support to Afghanistan.

“This was something that Sonita and I both cared a lot about. That was more focused on children, but when the whole thing was happening, a lot of women weren’t able to go to work. And so a lot of it was us trying to get them some food and shelter. And a lot of people were displaced.”

So, they decided to pursue fundraising as a way of advocating for their project.

“I was like, I love biking! I’m gonna bike 21 miles and I hope people donate to this fundraiser. Slowly and slowly, we were like, let’s get people involved. It was more of mobilizing the community.” 

Since then, Khadija and Sonita’s project was spread around campus in the hopes of creating multiple campaign and fundraising events. From tabling, to a boba sale, to an arts and baking sale, the efforts of the community were mobilized toward sending aid to Afghan women and children. 

“I’m seeing lots of results. For BardEATS, no one knew who we were, and now, a lot of people know who we are. And the work we are doing. The Afghan Women’s Project (…) it’s mostly about you guys. I worked on the calendar and everyone signed up and everyone’s doing what they need to do.” 

When asked to give advice for people that would like to be more involved in the community, Khadija’s answer was simple: 

“If there’s one thing that you care about, try to do that and make other people care about it. You just need to talk about it. Talk about it during dinner, breakfast, lunch. If you keep talking and caring, people around you will care about it too.”

And she continued by detailing the importance of prioritizing what you are advocating for.

“How much do you care about it?” she asks. “That’s what matters. And also, I would just say to show up. Wherever it is. Just show up. Even if you’re shy, or an introvert, you can still show up and be present. Your presence matters a lot. And then slowly you can build up your confidence. That’s a big one, having confidence. And it’s not easy. At the end of the day, it’s about what you’re working on. The whole project is not about me, it’s about the women in Afghanistan who give all their careers, all of their lives to their careers. They are scared, they don’t have food for their families. I don’t have time to be scared or afraid. It’s time for me to use the resources I have here to help them.” 

Khadija then mentioned a quote by Leila Watson: “If you have come here to help me, then you’re wasting your time. But if you are here because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” When wrapping up our interview, she mentioned that her goal is not to help anyone. “I’m here because my liberation is bound up with theirs. So if they’re not, I don’t feel liberated.”

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