New Regina-based non-profit hopes to help immigrant women find sisterhood, employment
Canadian Advisory of Women Immigrants' founder says orgs like hers are especially important during pandemic
A new non-profit is aimed at providing sisterhood and English classes for immigrant women.
Hani Rukh E Qamar, the Regina-based university student behind the Canadian Advisory of Women Immigrants, said more needs to be done to help during the pandemic.
Qamar first moved to Regina from Pakistan in 2011, she saw the kinds of struggles her own family had to go through to get connected and find employment.
She said her family was offered English classes, but only superficial support when it came to finding employment.
"It was kind of a struggle for my parents to first find jobs here," she said. "Lacking the social networks and not knowing as many people kind of made it harder."
Then as a university student in Montreal, Qamar saw the same problems for immigrant families. She moved back to Regina during the pandemic. She wanted to help others, so the Canadian Advisory of Women Immigrants was born.
"What inspired me was the clear divide between women and immigrants as well as non-immigrant women," she said.
The divide was apparent in both Regina and Montreal, she said, especially in terms of employment opportunities.
"They lack language fluency and the social networks," Qamar said.
"I kind of really wanted to put an emphasis on the importance of diversity and create a network of women immigrants who are willing to offer opportunities to other women."
The non-profit is now focused on three things: free English classes through online learning tools, fundraisers for causes such as Black Lives Matter and a sisterhood community project.
"The [sisterhood] project will involve things like activity nights, cafe dates, more game nights and even reading nights," Qamar said. "For now, we kind of have the whole thing on an online platform."
The non-profit is also hosting a live Instagram event where one woman is sharing her experience. It can be found at cawi.ca on Instagram.
Pandemic increasing inequalities: Qamar
Qamar said she was planning the non-profit with others before COVID-19 hit. Now it's harder to get sponsors as businesses are struggling.
"It's really important that non-profits like ours exist during times like the COVID pandemic because it's already worsening pre-existing inequalities in terms of social political and economic systems, which is kind of increasing the impacts of this pandemic," Qamar said.
Qamar said it's harder to network online, but the group is are trying to keep it as interactive as possible. She said several women were interested in participating.
"Lots of them signed up to be a part of our sisterhood project. Lots of them participated in our Black Lives Matter fundraiser and we also have a lot of women who stood up and wanted to help tutor English as well," Qamar said. "It's been a really positive response."
Qamar said she'll know her non-profit is a success if a year from now more women have successfully found work.
With files from The Morning Edition