Nfld. & Labrador

Pilot project aims to bring newcomer mothers back into the workforce

As the pandemic disproprtionately takes its toll on working women, a new program in St. John's aims to help some of the most marginalized find jobs.

YWCA offering training to help women start their own daycares

Constanza Safatle, seen here with her baby Victoria, is leading the project to help newcomers in the St. John's area navigate the ins and outs of starting their own daycare businesses. (Kenny Sharpe/CBC)

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disproportionately take its toll on working women, a new program in St. John's hopes to help some of the most marginalized — newcomer mothers in Newfoundland and Labrador — create their own jobs to join the workforce.

The YWCA in St. John's is in the midst of a rolling out a pilot project to help women create home-based daycares.

The idea for the project predates the pandemic, and sprang from two years of research into what was keeping such women from finding work and participating more in the community around them.

That research found a tangled web of interconnected issues, from language barriers, to getting credentials recognized, to experiences of discrimination, to the challenge that is finding someone to look after your children.

The woman leading the pilot project knows it first-hand, and all too well. 

"I am living this project," said Constanza Safatle, the newcomer services co-ordinator at the YWCA.

A lawyer back in Chile, Safatle came to Canada as her husband pursued graduate studies at Memorial University. She found herself in the city with few language skills, and attempting to navigate a different culture and bureaucracy to find work.

On top of all that, she said, it took her two years to find child care, and she's one of the lucky ones.

"It is a huge deal for mothers. Some of them wait five years to return to the labour market," she said.

Creating child care

The project is creating a series of training workshops, where participants will gather both entrepreneurial and child-care skills, with the goal to have two to three women be able to open up a home-based daycare by next winter.

"Home-based child care, it has huge need in the province," said Safatle.

The opportunities are there. It's not easy to navigate the system, but you can do it.- Constanza Safatle

"It is a good opportunity for newcomer women who want to explore entrepreneurship, and also, it's a good service for the community."

Beyond the child-care training, the project involves mentoring and support, as well as access to small loans, as Safatle said these in combination can help reduce barriers and create a successful business.

Beyond the dire need for more daycares in general, multicultural ones appeal to parents who may be looking for care that involves different languages, food and diversity, "so you create community," she said.

She hopes to offer herself as inspiration to others, as someone who may have struggled upon arrival to St. John's but has now found her place in the city.

"The opportunities are there. It's not easy to navigate the system, but you can do it," she said.

More information on the program is available through the YWCA's website and social media channels.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show

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