Growing up, Faiza learned that a cemetery is no place for a woman. Now she works in a

Strong points
  • Faiza Sohaib grew up in Pakistan and emigrated to Australia four years ago
  • Working or even visiting a cemetery is considered taboo for women in many communities
  • “I was never scared, but I was a little nervous about explaining my work to my family,” she says
To get to work each day, Faiza Sohaib walks a path bordered by well-kept gardens. The flowers and the chirping of the birds, she says, help her start her day with a sense of calm.
Faiza works in a cemetery, which was once unthinkable.
Born and raised in Pakistan, she immigrated to Australia four years ago.
She now works as a growth and strategy analyst in Melbourne with the Southern Metropolitan Cemetery Trust (SMCT), a role she started at the height of the pandemic in June 2021.

Faiza says that due to her upbringing, she was initially hesitant to take on this position.

It’s true, my first thought about working in a cemetery was a superstition, something I grew up with in Pakistani culture.

In Pakistan, only men are generally allowed to participate in funeral ceremonies. Women generally avoid visiting cemeteries – a taboo shared by many other communities.

Fazia remembers having heard, as a child, “stories of old women” according to which they were inhabited by demons, evil spirits or jinn.

While she views cemeteries in her homeland as gray and unattractive places, Fazia says things are much different in Australia.

“The cemeteries here are really beautiful and green, so often you don’t even realize you’re in a cemetery,” she says.

“A celebration of life”

Faiza sees Australian cemeteries as a “celebration of life”, with great attention paid to the surrounding environment.

“It allows the family or friends of the deceased to have a good time with their loved ones. They feel that the deceased is well placed,” she said.

faiza at his workplace

Due to her upbringing, Faiza says she was initially hesitant to take on the position. Credit: Provided by Faiza Sohaib

“Honestly, now I don’t feel like I’m working in a cemetery. Crossing the cemetery to reach my office, I have the impression of being in a botanical garden.

She acknowledges that people who mourn their loved one may feel differently, but she doesn’t feel any sense of “fear” in her workplace.

So far it’s like any other job for me, but the credit probably also goes to the way cemeteries are maintained in Australia.

What his family in Pakistan thinks of his work

Faiza says discussing her work with her family was “uncomfortable” at first.
In Pakistan, working or even visiting a cemetery is considered taboo for women.

“In fact, when I told them I was going to work in a cemetery, it was difficult for them to understand the type of work I was going to do,” says Faiza.

I had to explain that working in a cemetery does not necessarily mean that I have to dig graves, that there is a good system behind these well-organized cemeteries.

However, she says that once they learned that her work at the head office was largely research-based, her family weren’t so worried.

“Elders in particular have a different view of cemeteries in Pakistan, so it needs to be explained when a family member lives overseas.”

cemetery building

Faiza describes Australian cemeteries as a celebration of life. Credit: Provided by Faiza Sohaib

Plan ahead

As a migrant in Australia, Faiza knows the death of a loved one can be frightening and overwhelming.
“In Pakistan you might have your family and extended family to guide you through your time of grief, but here that might not be the case so you might panic and that might mean your wallet takes a hit. “, she says.
Financially, she thinks it can be a good idea to book a grave in advance, as it allows you to lock in a price and avoid any changes in the market.

It’s a hard thing to think about, but planning ahead can bring peace of mind, she says.


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