Engaging Immigrant Women

Arising from the BWSS commitment to social change, the Engaging Immigrant Women in the Legal System project objective is to use empowerment methods to minimize the power imbalance immigrant women experience when they access the legal system, and to make the legal system more accessible.

BWSS’ Engaging Immigrant Women in the Legal System project objective is to seek full engagement with immigrant women from three ethnic/cultural/language groups (South Asian, Latin American, Afghani & Iranian – Farsi Speaking), who have experienced violence in their intimate relationships, who speak English as another language, who may be bi-sexual or lesbian, who are dealing with the legal system and who may have to self represent in court, to review and analyze current legal issues through a women-centred, ethnic/cultural/language lens and to create and develop legal resources from that lens to increase the accessibility of the legal systems they are coming into contact with.

BWSS Engaging Immigrant Women in the Legal System

By Parminder Nizher and Daniela Escolar

For over 30 years Battered Women Support Services has supported immigrant women who experience violence in their intimate relationships. This project grows out of the legal barriers immigrant women share with us again and again. Hearing their experiences, combined with our knowledge of systemic barriers, unveil a family law legal system that is based in colonial, patriarchal perspectives of the world, and, as a result, is largely inaccessible to marginalized immigrant women experiencing violence in intimate relationships. Current legal resources are insufficient and fail to understand and meet the complex needs of immigrant women. A consequence is that women are forced to self represent in court with class/cultural/ethnic/language barriers that make them vulnerable to further victimization.

Arising from the BWSS commitment to social change, the Engaging Immigrant Women in the Legal System project objective is to use empowerment methods to minimize the power imbalance immigrant women experience when they access the legal system, and to make the legal system more accessible. We will do this by seeking full participation of immigrant women from three communities (South Asian, Persian/Afghani and Latin American) who are survivors of violence who are dealing with the legal system. Working with the women, we will analyze current legal issues and systemic barriers through a women-centered and ethno-racial lens. Some of the components of our project are to:

  • Expand community links among anti-violence community leaders and frontline workers
  • Develop an advisory committee of front-line workers who are immigrant women
  • Develop an empowerment and skill-based training program and train a core group of immigrant women from the three communities
  • Guide the Core Group to facilitate focus groups in the target communities
  • Analyze and review the information collected to create sustainable community resources from a women-centered ethno-cultural lens.

Our project aims to make public the voices of immigrant women by their active engagement in analyzing systemic legal issues from their experience and perspective. We strongly believe engaging immigrant women will better equip us to come up with strategies that effectively address the barriers they face. This project ultimately intends to create systemic change in the legal system through the empowerment of women and a strengthened community response to legal barriers.

For more information please contact Project Co-ordinators Sara and Parminder at 604-687-1868 or e-mail at sara@bwss.org and parm@bwss.org

This project is made possible by the funding from The Law Foundation of BC.

Engaging Immigrant Women In The Legal System-Community Engagement Report – By Parminder Nizher and Daniela Escolar Project Coordinators – August 2008 Empowering Refugee and Immigrant Women Who Experience Violence – A women-centred approach of supporting women from settlement to empowerment