Friday August 10, 2018
By Andrea Huncar

The Stride Advocacy Project is expanding to Calgary, Lethbridge and St. Paul


The Stride Advocacy Project has received a $50,000 grant from the province to branch out to Calgary, Lethbridge and St. Paul. (John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights )


An Edmonton initiative that has empowered hundreds of immigrant women to exercise their rights is expanding.

The
Stride Advocacy Project received a $50,000 grant this week from the
provincial Status of Women department to branch out to Calgary,
Lethbridge and St. Paul, and to offer programming to more Indigenous
women.

The program was launched a year ago by the Alberta
Somali Community Centre and the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human
Rights, with a $100,000 grant from the city.

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Over
the past year, 221 Stride participants, mostly women from Edmonton’s
Somali and Syrian communities, have been taught how to advocate for
themselves, access services and navigate bureaucracies in areas such as
housing, employment and education.

“It’s actually just
giving people that knowledge so they can exercise their own agency to
solve their own problems,” Angelica Quesada, a researcher with John
Humphrey, told CBC News on Thursday.

“It’s also taking a lot of pressure from agencies that have to support these people when they can do it themselves.”

It’s actually just giving people that knowledge so they can exercise their own agency to solve their own problems– Angelica Quesada, John Humphrey Centre

The
program breaks down barriers in other ways, too. Organizers made it
easier for participants to attend by providing childcare, transportation
and food. Two translators offered services in Arabic and Somali over a
total of 10 sessions.

“It bridged the language barrier that
is one of the main (reasons) why people don’t get service, because they
have to find a translator or a friend or a worker that can go with them
and access those services,” said Quesada.

She pointed
out how difficult bureaucracies can be to navigate, even for those who
speak English or have lived in Canada all their lives.

Angelica Quesada with the John Humphrey Centre says Stride gives immigrant women the tools they need to advocate for themselves.

“So
now imagine someone who is getting familiar with the language but
suffering from health or mental health issues,” she said. “It might be a
legitimate case and they just need to be supported in the proper way to
get what they need.”

Over 10 sessions, topics ranged from
victims’ rights, health care, human rights, child intervention and
supports available to help with the immigration process.

The goal
was to help those attending understand what services they are entitled
to, how to access them, and what to do when they can’t. Some sessions
evolved into clinics because participants needed more than just
information, said Quesada.

Among those presenting and
offering training were lawyers, teachers and members of the Alberta Hate
Crimes Committee and the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation.
Participants also heard from officials with Alberta Supports, and
offices of the child advocate and Alberta Health Advocates.

‘Eased their challenges’

Participants said Stride “provided emotional support and eased their challenges in life,” said Quesada. 

Staff
from grassroots organizations were also given access to the sessions so
they could better assist clients involved in complicated cases.

Stride’s
new grant is one of 32 projects that received funding this week from
Alberta’s department for the status of women totalling $850,000.

The
next session will take place in Lethbridge on Sept. 11, with guest
speaker Chickadee Richard, the First Nations family advocate for the
Assembly of First Nations in Manitoba.

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