By Andrea Canales, Manager, Engaging Immigrant Women in the Legal System Program
Arising from 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.
After 3 years of extremely successful and cutting edge work, we are proud to report on the many accomplishments achieved during the project timeline spanning from 2008 to 2011. With community work engagement and working with Immigrant women from the Iranian, Afghani, South Asian and Latin American communities, at the heart of our project, we were able to reach and train over 350 women from these communities while developing and/or enhancing their leadership and critical thinking skills.
From providing language specific training in the community, to delivering direct training to community workers working with Immigrant women, our work has been a reflection and a response to the identified needs in each of these communities. Spearheading this process, were the 14 trained Peer Researchers, representing the 3 communities, who worked tirelessly to ensure that the training was specific and culturally appropriate for the participants in the Self-Advocacy workshops, which were fully created and facilitated by them, in their roles as emerging community leaders.
Alongside this training, we developed an array of resources that will ensure a fairer and greater access to the legal system by not just Immigrant women, but by all women navigating the legal system. In total, we developed 6 resources:
- Empowering Non-Status, Refugee and Immigrant Women Who Experience Violence Training Manual
- A Resource for Front-line Workers: When Battered Women are Arrested
- Resources for Women: When Battered Women are Arrested
- Violence against Women and the Law: Resource for Women and Advocates
- Toolkit for Lawyers: Best Practices in Working with Battered Immigrant Women
- Toolkit for Immigrant Women working with a Lawyer
We have translated the above resources as well as our up until now English only version of “How Can I Help my Friend” into Farsi, Punjabi, Spanish.
Additionally, we did in-person outreach and project resource distribution to over 65 community workers, over 45 community specific doctors, MLA’s, and ESL teachers as well as over 10 community speakers.
Overall, the Engaging Immigrant Women in the Legal System project has been a rewarding and well-received initiative. We continue to receive requests from the community to come in and provide this type of much needed training. The Peer Researches feel saddened at having to reach the end of this project; nonetheless, they are fully aware of the amazing impact that they have brought into women’s lives as well as their own. As one of them wrote:
“Through all the process the most important thing I learned is to see the power and the capacity to create a network of safety and information. I felt part of a chain in creating a change to make the system work for Immigrant women but also to make Immigrant women part of the change itself… I feel lucky to have been part of such a great project in which I had the opportunity of growing in all levels, professionally and personally.”
This project was in collaboration/received funding from with the Law Foundation