Refugees, immigrants share sexual violence stories in graphic novel

A graphic novel for refugee and immigrant communities published to raise awareness on sexual violence is available for free in 11 languages, starting Thursday.
The graphic novel is available in 11 languages for free. (Courtesy of Krittika Ghosh)

Stories about sexual violence against refugee and immigrant women translated into 11 languages have been put into graphic novel form and are launching at the Kitchener Public Library on Thursday at 5:00 p.m.

The novel is called "Telling Our Stories: Immigrant Women's Resilience," and it's available for free.

The organization that ran the project is the Ontario Council of Agencies (OCASI), and they've worked with the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre (KWMC) on the launch in this region.

Lucia Harrison, the chief executive officer of KWMC told CBC News having the graphic novels in different languages is very helpful to the women they serve.

"I would say 90 per cent of our clients, at least when they first arrive in the country, have language issues and language barriers," Harrison said, "So to have them available in different languages just makes the understanding so much better than them seeing flyers in English."

Women participated in four workshops across the province to create the graphic novel together. (Courtesy of Krittika Ghosh)

Stories of real women

The senior coordinator of OCASI for the violence against women division, Krittika Ghosh, said what's special is the graphic novel isn't created by an expert.

"It actually came from the women's voices and experiences," she said.

Women in Windsor, Ottawa and Toronto participated in creative writing workshops where they shared their experiences with sexual violence.

"It took a day or two for them to know each other," Ghosh said, "Then we did a training around sexual violence itself."

The contents of the graphic novel are split into four stories. Ghosh said one of them is on "Marital rape, which is oftentimes not even recognized as sexual violence in many communities or in general, so that was something that was really powerful to see."

She said many of the participants from the workshops attended the launch of the graphic novels across Ontario and did readings at those events.

"To see their words and and their stories and pictures written down is just really powerful, and it's a sense of ownership, and it's also very empowering to see," she said.


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