Thamina Jaferi believes in the power of artistic expression – whether that be films, fashion or writing or design – to build bonds across cultures and differences.
Toronto Film School’s newly appointed Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion dabbles in stand–up comedy as a vehicle for her work in diversity and inclusion.
“I delve into stand–up comedy on the side where I talk about my own experiences as a Muslim woman, as a South Asian woman,” Jaferi said.
“I talk about my experiences growing up in a South Asian family. Many of my jokes are about my experiences with my mother and how she raised me, and I talk about things like relationships. I find it a great way to express myself and the things I am going through in the hopes that I can connect with the audience.”
An experienced diversity and inclusion professional and subject matter expert, Jaferi has a background in law, human rights, and equity. In her role, she will help develop, implement and administer various diversity programs, education and training to advance and support a diverse and inclusive workplace and inclusive service provision in the higher education sector.
Jaferi joined Toronto Film School from the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), where she developed the inaugural Diversity and Human Rights Executive Steering Committee, among other accomplishments.
She was drawn to Toronto Film School, in part, because working in an academic environment has been a goal. Jaferi said she loves being immersed in a learning environment and exchanging ideas.
“I love being surrounded by other people who are creative and telling stories, and that drew me in,” Jaferi said. “Then, when I got to hear about Yorkville University as well, what I was drawn to is that I will be working to make the lives of students better and making their experience better, as well as for faculty and staff.
Jaferi grew up in Ottawa and went to law school there. She moved to Toronto a few years ago with her family after completing articling. Even then, Jaferi said she wasn’t going to take a traditional path with her law education. She knew if she wanted to work in diversity and inclusion, she felt Toronto would offer her more opportunities.
“As a woman of colour, as someone who is visibly Muslim, I had a tough time getting my foot in the door of the legal profession… I faced a lot of rejection,” Jaferi explained. “I had someone straight up tell me it was because of my hijab.”
Jaferi said it frustrated her that she did what she thought was expected of her for her entire life, got good grades, was ambitious, and worked hard to pursue her goals, but she still hit a glass ceiling.
“It was something that deeply affected the core of who I am,” Jaferi said. “It was a very painful time… but out of that came this desire.”
Jaferi said she recognized that if she was having this type of experience, others were also facing systemic barriers because of their faith, sexual orientation, or gender.
“I want to do something for my career where I am removing those types of barriers, not just for myself, but other people as well,” she said.
Apart from policy, with her passion for the creative, Jaferi said she is particularly interested in working with Toronto Film School on social media, multi-media activities, the internet presence, and clearly why diversity and inclusion are important at Toronto Film School.
“I am so passionate about diversity, inclusion and human rights, and it is something that doesn’t stop for me from 9 to 5,” Jaferi said.
“It is something that is a part of my life, in my personal life, in my interactions with others. It is something that I am constantly learning about and trying to improve even for myself. We all have biases, and learning to unlearn whatever it is we have been socially conditioned with is something that makes life meaningful.”