Human rights activist Najwa Zebian helps others through her writing

World-renowned poet, author and activist Najwa Zebian finds power in writing
WATCH ABOVE: Najwa Zebian was born in Lebanon and moved to Canada with her family when she was 16 years old. She remembers how unsettling it was to move to a new country, learn a new language and make new friends. Writing poetry helped Zebian to find her authentic self and feel at peace in her heart. Susan Hay has the story.

Najwa Zebian was born in Lebanon and moved to Canada with her family in her teens. Her name means “divine talk,” so it comes as no surprise Zebian has become a poet, author and activist.

“It’s a constant reminder of what I stand for and what I believe in … and it just feels like I’m fully holistically meant to be this person,” said Zebian.

At 29, Zebian is strong, powerful, and confident – using her words to change the world. Yet when she moved to Canada at 16 leaving behind all that was familiar, Zebian said she felt lost and helpless. She recalled ripping up her journal and vowed she would never write again.

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“I was in survival mode for seven years after I arrived,” said Zebian.

“I did the right thing, got amazing grades, always followed the rules, never questioned anything, went to university, but it was when I became a teacher that things turned around.”

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Her first students were a group of young refugees. Zebian said she remembers looking at them and seeing her 16-year-old self.

“I had this Grade 8 student that said, ‘I was a top student in Libya and now I can’t even speak English properly’ and so I saw the screams in their eyes and in their body language and I just wanted to say, ‘I understand what you are going through and you can get out of it. You don’t need to fight for a place. You deserve to be here,” said Zebian.

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“And that’s when I started writing again.”

Today, Zebian is recognized around the world with approximately a million followers on Instagram. She has won international acclaim with her poetry collections and has become a powerful voice for women everywhere.

“Just remember that you actually matter, that your words matter, your feelings matter,” said Zebian.

“Your authentic self doesn’t have to work so hard to belong somewhere or to be seen by someone because you’re beautiful enough and more than enough.”