Onai Petra Paswani-Abote, IABC/Calgary’s newsletter manager, started volunteering in February 2020 and became a member in April that same year. She says, “After moving to Canada five years ago, I realized that in order to advance and grow professionally, joining an industry association would help me do just that. My search led me to IABC and after digging deeper, I was convinced IABC/Calgary would be a good fit.”

Onai Petra Paswani-Abote, IABC/Calgary’s newsletter manager.

Onai says, “In journalism college we were given the option to choose between broadcast and print journalism. At that time although I knew I was a great storyteller, I was not sure about my writing, and so I settled on broadcast journalism. I loved it and excelled. The last four years have seen me write outstanding pieces with one of my op-ed making page two in the Calgary Herald. In my current position at work, I constantly write articles for different audiences, and I continue to develop and sharpen that skill.”

Onai was influenced by a lot of people. Professionally the people who made a mark were her former boss and former Reuters (Harare) Bureau Chief Cris Chinaka, who modeled journalism ethics and integrity and Tsitsi Dangarembga, an award-winning author and filmmaker who employed Onai after she graduated from journalism college in 2005. She says, “From her I learnt first-hand how to be resilient in a male dominated industry and how to stand your ground.”

Onai’s advice for fellow communicators is a quote from a poem by Erin Hanson: “What if I fall? Oh, but my darling what if you fly?” Onai says, “I am not afraid of trying new things. I came to Canada with no idea of how my professional life would pan out, leaving a very good job that I had working and managing a Thomson Reuters Foundation project in Zimbabwe. That quote reminds me that fear only binds you, and sometimes you will only realize you have wings of steel when you fall.”

Years ago, Onai received a book recommendation from her older sister. It was Who moved my cheese by Spencer Johnson. Onai read and absolutely loved the life lesson about change and adapting to it. Also, her all-time favourites are Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga, which was the first book published by a black woman from Zimbabwe in English, and Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

Did you know?? Onai once was a child model for Edgars, a leading retail group in Southern Africa, and was also part of a youth band.

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