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‘For human dignity, they have to work’

Transportation, daycare are barriers to employment for many low-income immigrant women


The job she needed was right there in front of her. And at the same time, completely out of reach.

When Nadine Numa, 42, lived in Haiti she studied psychology and for 10 years worked with children who lived on the street. She came to Canada in 2016 with her own two children, now eight-year-old twins.

She was worried for her safety, and theirs.

She lives in Welland and is studying English as a second language. Her children attend a French-language school and for all intents and purposes, she is a single mom. All her family, including her husband, lives back in Haiti.

She needs – indeed very much wants – a job.

And not long ago, she was offered a position at a daycare in Welland.

But she had to say no.

She does not own a car and relies on public transportation. The first bus stops near her house at 7:30 a.m. And even if she had before-school daycare for her children – which she didn't– there wouldn't be time to catch the bus, drop off her children at daycare, then re-board another bus to get to work on time.

It was a frustrating predicament.

She couldn't accept the job because she didn't have the daycare or transportation.

It's a dilemma faced by many immigrant women, said Fété Kimpiobi, executive manager of Solidarité des Femmes et Familles Immigrantes Francophones du Niagara, based in Welland.

The organization helps with the social and economic integration of francophone women immigrants in Niagara.

Many women end up moving away from the region, she said.

Over the next three years, it will partner with agencies and organizations across Niagara to develop practical child care and transportation solutions that will address the needs of low-income francophone immigrant women facing barriers to employment.

It could become a model used by similar communities across Canada.

The project has received $269, 582 in funding from the federal government for the project, Securing Women in the Niagara Region.

Women come to Canada with big dreams, said Kimpiobi. And sometimes, despite best intentions, their dreams fall short because of challenges and circumstances that test the determination and courage that it often takes to leave family behind and journey to a new country.

"People come here with a lot of dreams," she said. "Especially if they have children, they work hard in order to give them the best."

They don't want to live on welfare. They don't want to "just sit and take advantage of all the benefits of Canada."

"For human dignity, they have to work. This is their goal. This is their dream.

"The reality is totally different."

The challenges are discouraging and inextricably connected. Without a car, they are limited by geography to finding a job and yet without a job, they can't buy a car. Or pay for daycare. But without some place safe for their children – available during the evening as well -- they can't get a job and are often relegated to part-time employment, said Kimpiobi.

Sirad Warsame, a 34-year-old woman who came to Canada last year from Somalia with her four children, hopes to study to be a nurse one day. She takes the bus to the Niagara College campus in Welland, to study English as a second language.

Her children – ages 5, 7, 8 and 10 – are in a French-language school. And because she has no family, no one to look after them besides herself, she can't get a full-time job and part-time opportunities are limited to the hours her kids are in school.

"I came to Canada to find peace," she said. "To find more opportunities for my kids and me."

She knows in her heart it was the right choice, but the reality is not easy.

Meanwhile, Numa will soon begin a part-time job at a daycare closer to home. She secured funding from Niagara Region to help pay some costs of after-school care, and her children will conveniently stay at the same daycare where she is working.

The project will begin by establishing more precisely the variety of women's needs, and then by partnering with agencies, politicians, daycares and transportation services to name only a few, solutions will be found, she said.

She hopes the changes will benefit not only the population served by her organization, but everyone facing similar challenges.

"We want to bring a systemic change in the region," she said.

To learn more, visit www.sofifran.org/



Cheryl.Clock@niagaradailies.com

905-225-1626 | @Standard_Cheryl

Cheryl.Clock@niagaradailies.com

905-225-1626 | @Standard_Cheryl


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