Gov’t grant targets women’s barriers

(Photo by Will Huang)

(Photo by Will Huang)

“We’re ensuring that immigrant women have the opportunity to fulfill their full potential,” said Peter Braid the Member of Parliament for Kitchener-Waterloo.

Braid announced a $196,664 donation as well as a two-year collaboration between Status of Women Canada and a local agency, Focus for Ethnic Women.

This project is intended to help immigrant and visible minority women overcome obstacles — especially when it comes to employment.

“We call it meaningful employment as opposed to survival employment,” said Leanne Casey, the executive director for Focus for Ethnic Women. “We have people who are immigrants, we have people who are underemployed and people who are looking to find employment in their actual professions.”
Casey accepted the donation on behalf of the organization, which has been in operation in the Kitchener-Waterloo Region for the last 26 years.

“We try to help them find the employment that they want to have.”

Under the project, Focus for Ethnic Women will work alongside community organizations to assess the needs and barriers of immigrant women. The grant will fund a two-year project, which will be split into a number of stages.

The first stage will be a “needs assessment,” analyzing the sorts of barriers that immigrant women in the community face, community engagement, and what needs to be done to alleviate existing issues.

“Once we’ve identified the barriers we will come up with some strategies,” Casey added.

Pilot projects will be proposed with community partners, who will then do an evaluation.

Focus for Ethnic Women is hoping this collaboration will help find solutions for a number of employment-related issues facing immigrant women.

Lucia Harrison, the executive director for the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre, explained her thoughts on the employment barriers that immigrant women face in comparison to men.  “We haven’t really taken a good look in this community in terms of what those barriers are,” she said. “We’re doing a lot of work on helping foreign trained professionals who are job ready for the workforce, but we know that there are many other categories that we haven’t looked at.”

“We’re hoping that during this project we find those answers and that we can then develop some tools and pilots to see if we can reverse that trend,” Harrison added.

Through the Status of Women Canada, federal funding of community-based projects has nearly doubled since 2007.

Today, Status of Women Canada supports more than 680 projects across Canada.

“I actually just came from Hamilton where we did another announcement from there as well,” said Susan Truppe, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of Status for Women. “We’re funding in different areas, it’s all across Canada.”

“We are very excited about this, we think it will benefit all the women in Kitchener-Waterloo.”

Braid explained that the region is an “increasingly growing destination” for immigrant women and new Canadians.

He believes that as new Canadians come to the area, they want to fully contribute.

He emphasized his belief that these individuals need the tools to fully contribute to the K-W community.

“This project in particular will help to provide immigrant women and new Canadians with the tools, the skills and the training that they need to succeed in the Canadian work force,” he said.

Truppe also agreed that proper training and education was a key element in ensuring economic security and prosperity for immigrant women.

“We want to give them the tools they need to find a particular job,” she said.

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