For our July Social Issues Discussion, 32 women got together at the Women’s Centre to learn about the stories of refugee women and discuss ways in which they could join together to help.
We started the evening with some brainstorming around the question “What do you think are some of the biggest challenges that refugee women in Canada may face?” We had a wide range of ideas from the cold weather to breaking down barriers like social isolation, but also more systemic challenges such as the lack of credential recognition in industries like medicine and law.
To provide the group with more insight, we heard from three guest speakers. We began with Cydney Melnyk, Program Coordinator from the Community Connections for Newcomers program at Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS). She enlightened the group with recounts of her own personal research, concluding that it is her belief that refugee women want to get out into the community and work in order to contribute financially in a country more expensive than home. This perspective was also supported by our second speaker, Sameena Arif, Program Coordinator at CIWA, currently leading the My Community My Home program. Sameena does amazing work for immigrant seniors to encourage them to create connections in the community in order to break social isolation. Saima Jamal, from the Syrian Refugee Support Group, was our third speaker and is also passionate about advocating for community engagement and refugee rights. Saima shared with the group her personal accounts of interactions with refugee women. Displaying the various ways in which these women pursue their efforts towards finding balance in their new life, despite the trauma they have previously experienced.
By no means are these three speakers the only voices for refugee women in Calgary. We would have loved to have women speak about their own experiences, but language and comfort levels with being a focal point of a discussion like this represented major obstacles. Nonetheless, our speakers did an amazing job informing us. The feedback we received from the group was great; with many saying they enjoyed learning about diverse experiences and ways that they can become allies to refugee women in Calgary.
Thank you to those that attended, and please don’t forget our next discussion on Women and Work- moving forward in male- dominated industries on August 2nd from 6 to 8 pm.