'Every woman is a leader': Speaker series aims to empower immigrant women

A series, put on by Gradual Rising of Women (GROW), aims for women who have built a new life in Canada to share their trials and tribulations with other women who have just made the move.

Series shares stories from women who faced hardships while coming to Canada

Giselle General was one of the speakers at the Speak Out Women event in Edmonton on Saturday. (Emilio Avalos/Radio-Canada)

Giselle General's mother, father and sister were killed in a motor vehicle accident in 1999 in the Philippines. Her aunt and uncle spent eight years trying to sponsor General and her brother to come to Canada.

In 2007, she moved to Toronto, and has since made her home in Edmonton. On Saturday, she shared her story, along with other immigrant women, at the Speak Out Women Series.

The series, put on by Edmonton-based Gradual Rising of Women (GROW), aimed for women who have built a new life in Canada to share their trials and tribulations with other women who have just made the move.

"Upon arriving to Canada, there is a lot of information overload," General told Radio-Canada on Saturday.

She said all the paperwork for immigration on top of being placed in a completely foreign environment can be difficult for women.

Ayo Dahunsi came to Canada 19 years ago on a cold November afternoon. She now works as a director of regulatory strategy for ATB Financial — but it wasn't always easy for her.

"Making the transition as an immigrant was quite a stretch for me," Dahunsi said. When she first came to Canada from Nigeria, she had a two-month-old child.  

Ayo Dahunsi immigrated from Nigeria in 1998 with a two-month-old child. (Emilio Avalos/Radio-Canada)

She said the challenges of having to take care of her kids on top of working to have a successful job, taught her how to be resilient.

She too shared her story with other women who may be facing similar challenges — and had some advice for them.

"It's not about the challenges you face in life, it's how you face them," she said. "Every woman is a leader already."

150 stories

Tracy Barry, who founded GROW, said the Speak Out Women Series is part of the Canada 150 project, aiming to collect 150 stories from immigrant women across Canada.

Tracy Barry, who organized the event, is hoping to collect 150 stories from women who immigrated to Canada. (Emilio Avalos/Radio-Canada)

Barry said she hopes the event helps women who are new to the country.

"Our goal at GROW is to seed," she said. "It's only going to get better from here."

For General, the series helped her with her struggles. Now, as a speaker at the event, she's returning the favour.

"Many people's stories are very different," General said. "[But] with every pain we encounter in life, there's always the possibility to make it better for yourself, your loved ones and your community."