Empowering newcomer women in Canada: Celebrating achievements amidst ongoing challenges - New Canadian Media
Hiral Pandya, a client and program support worker at YWCA Jump Scarborough, guiding newcomer clients through a Pranayama breathing exercise during International Women's Day events. (Sheena Shirani photo / New Canadian Media)

Empowering newcomer women in Canada: Celebrating achievements amidst ongoing challenges

Stories of strength, survival, and success echo in Scarborough YWCA Jump event

Newcomer women to Canada face a barrage of challenges, ranging from a pressing need for employment, to often dealing with the ongoing psychological trauma brought on by the fear and persecution many faced in their countries of origin, as well as the treatment they’ve faced in this country.

But, as newcomers who attended a recent International Women’s Day event at the YWCA in Scarborough learned, a vital part of finding success in Canada is to take time to network with each other and to celebrate their accomplishments.

interim Manager of YWCA Toronto’s Jumo Scarborough Program, Nicole Sutherland, conducts a sound bath. (Sheena Shirani / New Canadian Media)

Nicole Sutherland, interim manager at the YWCA Toronto’s Jump program, told New Canadian Media during the March 8 event that learning from each other can be key in overcoming the challenges faced while transitioning through immigration.

“We are funded to provide settlement and employment services, and I’m sure, coming to Canada, that’s one of the first things you think, ‘I need a job,’” said Sutherland, whose support program is for women and girls new to Canada who are over 13 years old.

Sometimes events like today may seem unrelated to job-seeking, but the connections made and information shared can prove invaluable for networking, boosting confidence, and addressing the underlying challenges of immigration transitions,” she said.

Bahareh Asady, settlement and employment, counsellor at YWCA J ump Scarborough, instructing newcomer women on how to make lip balm out of natural ingredients. (Sheena Shirani photo / New Canadian Media)

The YWCA’s Jump program is designed to help newcomers explore employment options, build skills, search for jobs and integrate into Canadian society

Joanna Jaskielewicz, Interim Director of YWCA Toronto’s Employment and Training Department, echoed these sentiments, emphasizing the importance of celebrating accomplishments and fostering hope for the future. 

“As women, and especially immigrant women, we don’t always find the time to celebrate ourselves. Events like this offer an opportunity to recognize achievements and instil hope by showcasing the supportive community, be it through counsellors, programs, or the connections women have made.”

The event started with a narrative on International Women’s Day, covering its significance and activities such as celebrating achievements, promoting equality, advocating for change, and supporting women-focused charities. A global observance video was followed by details about traditions in different countries. The introduction ended by encouraging involvement through appreciation, support, donations, event participation, and learning about women’s rights and issues.

Participants were then guided to a separate room for a hands-on activity — creating their own lip balms using natural ingredients like shea, coconut oil, beeswax, and essences. As the participants immersed themselves in this, the room was filled with the aroma of citrusy orange. Subsequently, participants gathered in another space for refreshments, where a spread of fruit salad, muffins, and cookies, accompanied by hot drinks, awaited them.

 Amidst the networking, New Canadian Media had the opportunity to speak to multiple women about their immigration journeys.

Chioma: Bisexual and living in fear

Chioma, a Nigerian newcomer, participating in chair yoga at the International Women’s Day event at YWCA Jump Scarborough. (Sheena Shirani photo / New Canadian Media)
Chioma, a Nigerian newcomer, participating in chair yoga at the International Women’s Day event at YWCA Jump Scarborough. (Sheena Shirani photo / New Canadian Media)

Chioma is a bisexual woman who had to flee her country due to her openly declared relationship.

Chioma expressed her aspirations of coming to Canada as a permanent resident rather than a refugee. Despite the initial challenges of weather, financial struggles, and cultural shock, Chioma remained proactive by attending certificate programs to equip herself for a promising future in Canada, both for herself and her four children. “I am contemplating turning this lip balm making into a business,” Chioma said.

Basma: “I’m afraid of everything”

Originally from Eritrea but born and raised in Saudi Arabia, Basma spoke to New Canadian Media about her journey as refugees to Canada in 2017 with her widowed mother. 

Their refugee claim was rejected four times before they were finally  granted refugee status in 2023. Basma shared the struggles of settling in Montreal, facing challenges in shelters, and eventually relocating to Toronto for better community support. Her poignant story included rejections, appeals, and a month-long stay in a detention centre, highlighting the emotional toll on both her and her mother. Despite the hardships, they were approved in 2023. “I feel lonely now. I have no friends. 

“I’m scared of everyone. My friends are all back home. This is the first time I’m putting myself out there,” Basma confided.”

Swati: A positive experience

Swati, a newcomer from India, attends the YWCA Jump Scarborough International Women’s Day event. (Sheena Shirani / New Canadian Media)

Swati, a newcomer from India, shared her positive experience in Canada over the past six months, expressing gratitude for the ease of finding an entry-level job and the supportive programs offered by YWCA Jump.

The event, dedicated to celebrating International Women’s Day and honouring women’s resilience, resumed with the room filling up again. Hiral Pandya, client and program support worker at YWCA Jump Scarborough and yoga instructor, initiated a yoga session, emphasizing its reflective nature and connection with a higher power. 

Pandya guided a chair yoga session, leading participants through poses. The session concluded with a sound bath, orchestrated by Sutherland, and Samiha Rahman, an employment/outreach counsellor with YWCA Jump Scarborough. 

The harmonious blend of crystal singing bowls and the resonating chimes of the steel tongue pan enveloped the room.

The harmonious blend of crystal singing bowls and the resonating chimes of the steel tongue pan enveloped the room.

Afterwards, Jaskielewicz shared her perspective. “These events are the cherry on the cake for us. While our main focus is on settlement and employment, these community connections and wellness workshops add that extra layer of joy and connection. They go beyond the practical aspects, providing participants with a sense of community, empowerment, and celebration.” 

This article was produced as part of an Inclusive Journalism Microcredential offered by New Canadian Media and Seneca Polytechnic. Learn more here.


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Sheena Shirani, a seasoned broadcast journalist with 15+ years of experience, embarked on a transformative journey from the UK to Iran. Navigating cultural shock and patriarchal challenges, she excelled in journalism despite societal pressures. Forced into exile as a refugee in Turkey, she lived the struggles she once reported on. Passionate about advocating for women, newcomers, and the marginalized, Sheena draws from her personal experiences, poised to use her voice for positive change.

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