By Manori Ravindran, Vancouver Sun – June 26, 2012
After a spate of violence against women in Metro Vancouver’s South Asian community in 2006, Langara College tackled the hot-button issue by hosting a series of forums to address the problem.
Organizers knew the topic was rife with misinformation and stereotypes, so they were careful to solicit advice from immigrant woman concerned about the lack of awareness of domestic violence in their communities.
Now a new project at the college, announced Tuesday by Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose, will revisit the needs of immigrant women and newcomers to Canada and address violence against women on post-secondary campuses.
“Violence is violence, and it is prevalent among all cultures,” said Eyob Naizghi, executive director of MOSAIC, an immigrant advocacy group spearheading the project with Langara. “The emphasis is, we’d like to do work with immigrant students and newcomers of the campus population because they have less awareness than the average Canadian about domestic violence.”
The 28-month project will develop school policies for the safety of all female students on campuses, but targets new immigrants who may not be as informed about laws and regulations surrounding violence against women in Canada.
One in six women attending college or university is a survivor of rape, and women under the age of 25 experience the highest rate of sexual assault and criminal harassment among Canadians.
The project, which received $200,000 from the federal government Tuesday, will create theatre productions and host student-organized conferences to explore themes of abuse.
Indira Prahst, chair of Langara’s department of sociology and anthropology, said it is important that people don’t associate immigrants or certain ethnic groups with violence against women.
“When we say immigrant, it’s important to highlight that it’s not their culture that’s the problem, it’s their social position within a society,” she said, explaining that class and inequality are important factors to consider.
The project will begin at Langara but could expand to other post-secondary institutions if the programs are successful.
“Our hope is that [after the two years], we will be able to … document our learnings and what worked and didn’t work, [and] take it to other institutions and implement the same project,” said Naizghi.
(Material reprinted with the express permission of: Vancouver Sun, a division of Postmedia Network Inc.)
It is so true that the immigrant community gets stereotyped when it comes to violence against women. In fact, violence against women is an issue that affects every culture and country from both Western and Eastern hemispheres. In Canada, it’s an issue that equally affects Canadian-born and immigrants alike. Yet, there seems to be this tendency in the media to demonize the immigrant community with a few sensational stories of honour killings. The truth is that there are extreme examples of violence against women from all cultures, and the important thing is that we all work together to raise awareness about this issue.
I applaud the anti-violence project at Langara College focused on educating immigrant women and students about this issue. Immigrant women need to better understand the resources available to them in Canada in situations of domestic violence and how to access them. They also need help in overcoming cultural stigma in coming forward. Whereas incidences of domestic violence in Western society are just as high, there seems to be more awareness among Western women that they have options and should seek help, without being concerned about shame or stigma.
There is never a situation where violence against women is okay, and we must all work together to spread this information.