Today is Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
To commemorate the day and the female victims of violence, Skills for Change commits to supporting women to join the movement in eliminating forms of violence against women and girls.
The history of our Agency has a strong grounding in providing support to women. Skills for Change started 36 years ago as an office training agency for a group of women from Southeast Asia. Since then, our services have grown to include bridging programs, employment services, language training, mentorship, youth and seniors programs and many more. In all these years, we have remained steadfast in our commitment to supporting women and especially women who face multiple barriers to accessing information and resources.
Earlier this year, we launched a new program called Women Connecting with Women, a resource that provides newcomer women with a community of support, information and resources.
The program is being led by Narges, a crisis worker and a counsellor. Narges runs workshops twice a week for new immigrant women from across the Greater Toronto Area. Narges also brings in facilitators and guest speakers on different topics such as self-care, self-compassion, health and wellness, happiness, mindfulness, art therapy, self-confidence, healthy relationships, etc.
For Narges, this work of supporting newcomer women aligns with her values. Narges was a newcomer herself who came to Canada when she came to Canada during her high school years. She studied psychology at Carleton University and then completed her Master’s Degree in Counselling from the University of Ottawa. When searching for roles in supporting new immigrants and refugees, Narges learned about Skills for Change and joined the organization earlier this year to lead the Women Connecting with Women program.
Narges says “Women who come to Canada from other countries are often very skilled but face difficult challenges and multiple barriers which can be very difficult. These are strong and resilient women who have skills, excellent education and amazing personal traits. But they need support because they’re dealing with high levels of stress as they build new lives in Canada. They are improving their English language skills and they are looking for a job while at the same time taking care of families.”
In supporting newcomer women to integrate into Canadian society, Narges also leads confidential workshops and counselling sessions with women who have faced or are facing trauma and violence and other challenges. Narges shared with us her approach in supporting women survivors who come to her workshops.
“Some women have experienced violence in the past. Although these women are physically safe now, they want to improve their psychological well-being and overcome the effects of their past trauma. For these women, I use counselling and psychotherapy techniques. I support them in becoming safe and feeling safe. I work with them based on a client-centered approach in line with an anti-oppressive practice. I identify their unique needs and goals and we collaborate from there onwards.”
“For women who are experiencing violence currently or have experienced violence recently, I ensure that they are safe in their environment. With their permission, I connect them with relevant services in Toronto. Skills for Change’s Women Connecting Women equip these women with the knowledge and information they need to make sure that they are safe in their homes and living environments. If a woman needs to move to a safer environment, we are able to connect them with other agencies who can provide her with housing and other resources.”
For Narges, her training and philosophy are based on a humanistic approach. She says that unconditional acceptance is the starting point. She says, “support and counselling require unconditional acceptance and accepting and respecting each individual as a human being and showing them empathy and understanding. For me, the most rewarding part of my job is when I see the women I serve smile.
Some of my clients come in with a high level of stress and then after a few sessions, they tell me that they feel better and that the sessions have helped them. It is very rewarding for me when I see that my clients embrace and remember their own resilience and strength.”
Women Connecting with Women at Skills for Change is a series of workshops which started in June and runs twice per week. The program addresses the systemic issues of newcomer women who face multi-barriers. The program provides newcomer women with tools and resources to reduce social isolation, increase self-esteem, increase their networks and build confidence. The program also provides access to one on one counselling/crisis counselling, support groups, mentoring, language enhancement and life-skills training. The end goal is for newcomer women to feel empowered and to support their social and economic integration in the Canadian Society. For more information on Women Connecting With Women check out the website and discover upcoming workshops here:
If you or anyone you know may be at risk of violence of any kind, here is a list of helpful immediate resources:
- Toronto Distress Centres
(416) 408-4357 OR 911 for Emergency
- Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/ Multicultural women against Rape (TRCC/MWAR)
- Assaulted Women’s Helpline
- Gerstein Centre
- Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic (Counselling and Legal services)
- Reconnect Community Health Services
- Mental Health Crisis Response Program
- Family Service Toronto
- The Redwood Women’s Shelter
24-Hour crisis line:
- METRAC(Legal information related to women rights for free on the phone)