Gender equality initiatives support minority women

Chany Chea leading a gender equality training workshop. From top going clockwise: Chany, Precious, Reumae, Megan, Monica and Mamata. | Photo by Chany Chea

MOSAIC, one of the largest settlement organizations in Canada, is currently holding gender equality training workshops for young women.

Chany Chea, is the project coordinator for innovative projects at MOSAIC. Her work covers a variety of areas such as domestic violence counseling, victim services work and relationship violence prevention. While completing her Master’s degree in race, gender, sexuality and social justice, she became interested in the issues surrounding gender inequality.

“I always wanted to work in a settlement agency and help newcomers,” says Chea, whose relatives came to Canada from Cambodia in 1982. “I know what they went through and there were people in the community that helped us so I want to give back as well.”

Promoting gender equality

The three year project to promote gender equality is funded by the Status of Women in Canada. The organization put out a call for systemic change to promote gender equality and reduce violence against women. The organization’s idea was to take a grassroots approach by hosting a series of workshops in Burnaby, Surrey, Vancouver and New Westminster.

Chea explains that each group has about eight women from visible minorities who are tasked with coming up with an initiative to promote gender equality. At the Vancouver location, Chea and another co-facilitator guide the discussion, provide background information on gender inequality and help the group come up with a strategy. For example, the initiative from the Burnaby workshops was to create a curriculum to teach English and also gender equality as part of the Learning English for Newcomers course there. MOSAIC partners with Burnaby Family Life and Umoja to make these workshops happen.

“We are trying to address violence against women within visible minorities. Those are the communities that we work with and we understand there are certain barriers that prevent them from getting help,” says Chea.

She explains that for women who have experienced domestic violence, it is more difficult for them to leave their situation if they are unaware of the resources available to them.

“There are a lot of systemic issues that prevent women from being able to get help especially when they are visible minorities,” says Chea.

They may not have the language skills to seek help and depending on which country they’ve come from, they may have experienced trauma or have a distrust of the police. According to Chea, visible minority women as a whole, whether they are newcomers or not, face discrimination.

“Our project looks at gender inequality as a whole but is concentrated on making change that is inclusive of the needs of visible minority women,” says Chea. “We felt that visible minority women should be the ones speaking for their needs in the workshops.”

Creating systemic change

West Coast LEAF is another organization that works to promote women’s equality and end discrimination against women. They achieve this through litigation, law reform, and public education.

Kasari Govender, executive director of West Coast LEAF and lawyer, says they envision all women as equal participants in all areas of society. They watch cases and intervene to make submissions to the court about how certain issues impact women’s equality and rights. In addition, West Coast LEAF also performs research and makes recommendations on how laws should change.

“We are not on one side or the other, but we help influence court decisions,” says Govender. “The idea is to create systemic change.”

A recent success was in the fall of 2016 when a submission to change the residential tenancy act was accepted by the government. The change gives women who are in an abusive relationship the right to break the lease as it may be a barrier for them to flee their situation.

In pushing for change not only throughout society, but also showing minority women their potential, organizations like MOSAIC and West Coast LEAF hope to build a community that embraces gender equality.

“One thing we try to do is empower women with the projects, and the women we work with themselves,” says Chea.

For more information on MOSAIC and the gender equality training workshops, please visit www. www.mosaicbc.org.

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