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Women in Hamilton, Raising our Voices. Issue 1 • June & July 2009 • Published by the Immigrant Women’s Centre

Letter from the Editor Welcome to the first-ever issue of The Women’s Press – Hamilton Women, Raising Our Voices. This is a publication of the Immigrant Women’s Centre (IWC) featuring information about the vital work we do with the city’s immigrant and refugee women.

women, financial stress is always present. The often-cited barriers of language and lack of Canadian experience delay many newcomer women’s entry into the workforce. So does discrimination based on gender, race and culture. After coming to a new country, many immigrant women also lose their social and family support networks. This can deprive them of things like free childcare (previously provided by relatives back home) and sources of information. And women – immigrant and non-immigrant alike - are still faring much worse than men, especially in these tough economic times. But even when the economy recovers, immigrant and refugee women will continue to struggle with many of these barriers.

But I hope it can be much more than that.

I would like this publication to provide a forum, not only for our organization, but for the community at large. I hope to see women from across the city sharing their ideas and knowledge in these pages.

To accomplish this, we need your input. We want to know what issues are important to you and your family and what you want to learn more about. We also welcome any feedback on our first issue. Send us your thoughts at:

You will read about these challenges in the pages of The Women’s Press. But you will also read about solutions. ------------------------

In her article “Counting Women into the Economy,” Catherine Pead, CEO of the YWCA Hamilton, proposes creating affordable, reliable child-care alongside high-tech research jobs in Hamilton’s new Innovation Park in order to attract more women to traditionally male-occupied sci-

These days, it’s hard to avoid the subject of the economy. Few of us have been spared during this difficult downturn. Even for those not directly affected, the uncertainty and anxiety alone has no-doubt taken a toll. But




ence and technology jobs.

The Immigrant Women’s Centre’s new program on managing money in Canada, described in this issue, aims to give immigrant women the tools they need to plan for their long-term financial security. And in her piece on the impact of the current recession on Hamilton’s poverty rates, Sara Mayo of the Social Planning and Research Council highlights the need for a better financial safety net for Hamilton residents. ------------------------

Finally, we wanted to spend some time on the always popular subject of this long-awaited summer. Read on to find useful information on summer safety tips and a list of activities available to you and your family in Hamilton this summer. You may be surprised at how many exciting and free options surround you. And please check out what some of our LINC students had to say about their idea of a perfect summer day. I’m sure it will make you smile. Sincerely, Ines Rios, Executive Director Immigrant Women’s Centre

Improvements in poverty rates are being reversed by recession By Sara Mayo, Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton Recent major shifts in our economy and labour force are causing more members of our community to depend on income support programs and social services than has been the case for many years.

A new report from the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton with the United Way of Burlington and Greater Hamilton

11,600 families and individuals in Hamilton receiving income support benefits from Ontario Works. That is the highest claim rate since 2001, and the caseload has been growing by approximately 4 per cent each month since last November. Even more worrisome is that the number of people needing support is expected to continue


Non-immigrants 136,425 Immigrants 61,795 Recent Immigrants 6,550 Non permanent residents 1,695

Women in Low Income

Poverty Rate for Women


16.8 %







Data source: Statistics Canada, 2006 Census of Canada Prepared by: Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton

Hamilton shows that two leading indicators -- Ontario Works caseload and the number of employment insurance recipients -- are increasing at alarming rates. There are now more than

increasing in the months ahead. Claim rates for employment insurance show a similar trend, with a 36 per cent increase from January 2008 to 2009. The most recent census data from Statistics Canada report-

ed on conditions just prior to the economic downturn and showed the poverty rate in Hamilton was in decline. In 2005, the poverty rate stood at 18% of the population, meaning 6,000 fewer people in Hamilton were living on incomes below the poverty line than in 2000. This improvement was very good news, but no coincidence. It happened as a result of changes to the labour force, pension programs, income support programs and taxation policies.

There were also improvements in the poverty rates of recent immigrants and visible minorities, but these rates remain much too high. For example, almost half of women who immigrated to Canada in the 2001-2006 period struggle on incomes below the poverty line. As immigrant women live longer in Canada, their poverty rates do decrease, and for Hamilton immigrant women as a whole, the poverty rate

Artwork created by residents of Arrell Youth Centre & Banyan Community Services, Hamilton.

A new poverty report by the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton indicates overall poverty rates are slightly down. But while seniors are faring slightly better, poverty rates for children in Hamilton have increased. Immigrant women, especially those who are newly arrived, also continue to suffer alarmingly high rates of poverty. Meanwhile, the economic climate continues to take its toll, causing a recent spike in numbers of people needing social assistance and employment insurance recipients. was 22% in 2005. But this is still higher than the average for the general population (18%).

In contrast, the SPRC’s report also showed that child poverty rates have increased slightly in Hamilton between 2000 and 2005 (from 25% to 26%).

“Almost half of women who immigrated to Canada in the 20012006 period struggle on incomes below the poverty line.” This increase is partially due to more children growing up in lone-parent families. These families are most often female

led and so face the dual challenges of raising a family on a single income as well as the barriers that women still face in the labour market. While it's a relief to many that some support programs are in place to assist them through this recession, this crisis reminds us that an effective system of supports needs to be created before it is most needed. Then the work to monitor its effectiveness and make improvements needs to continue.

There is no better time than the present to tackle poverty with even more energy and commitment. Our generation and the next will be counting on it.

1. What is the poverty rate for recent immigrant women in Hamilton? 2. How many fewer people were living in poverty in Hamilton in 2005 compared to 2001? Discussion: Did you know that 1 in 4 children in Hamilton are living in poverty? What is your reaction to this?

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Apr & May 09 • Vol 2 • Issue 3


Women in Hamilton, Raising our Voices. Issue 1 • June & July 2009

Counting Women into the Economy

Community Dispatch The current recession threatens the well-being of Canadian women. Statistics clearly show that women as a group are more economically vulnerable than men. To support women and their children through the current recession, politicians at all levels of government must use a gender lens in deciding what goes into any economic stimulus strategy. Factor Women In

Women hanging on by a thread could see that thread cut during this recession without gender-responsive economic policies.

Recently the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce hosted the 2nd Hamilton Economic Summit. Great progress had been made since the first summit in May 2008. Concrete examples of investments in Hamilton were encouraging signs that Hamilton can come out from the current recession stronger and in a better position than when it started. Consider the numbers in Hamilton: •

Women have a 22% poverty rate compared with men’s rate of 18%.

Women earn an average of 62 cents for every dollar that men make

With the highest levels of working mothers in our history, 36% of mother-led families have incomes below the poverty line and 43% of children living in a low income family live with a single, female parent.

Aboriginal women have a poverty rate of 40% higher than Aboriginal men and almost double the rate for all women

Visible minority women have a poverty rate of 36% compared with 22% for all women

Women in Hamilton are worse off than in other parts of the province. Female lone parent families in Hamilton earn $28,232 - almost $4,000 less than the provincial average of $31,776.

By Catherine M. Pead, CEO YWCA Hamilton

However, one key element is still missing from the discussion of economic development and that is a gender lens on our priorities and strategies. Every project noted at the summit, with rare exception, was the type of activity that traditionally creates jobs and economic opportunities for men. These were construction, hard infrastructure (LRT and sewers), high-tech research and manufacturing plants. These are important and necessary projects and should be pursued. This is not a question of “either-or” but “both-and.”

"Research shows that when you invest in women’s economic development you raise the living standards for whole communities. " Construction projects are good but how about community and recreational facilities, hospitals, public spaces, social housing, health centres, and schools? This kind of social infrastructure secures the health and safety of women and their families. It is also traditionally filled with women who work as nurses, teachers, child care workers, personal support workers, and administrators. The question at the end of the day in any economic plan needs to be: who benefits? If the answer is primarily and consistently men, then we need a gender lens. With poverty rates for women and single mothers as outlined above and with a commitment to make Hamilton “the best place to raise a child” we have a moral and an economic obligation to put women in the economic picture. Research shows that when you invest in women’s economic development you raise the living standards for whole communities. Children fare better, seniors fare better, the sick and disabled fare better. This is because women tend to spend on activities that will benefit their families such as tuition fees for their children to go to school and medicine to treat ill relatives. They

by Lorraine Nelson, Public Health Nurse, City of Hamilton

Outdoor activities are fun – whether it is camping, cycling, soccer, or taking a walk. They add excitement to our lives. But that excitement can diminish when you and your family are being harassed by unwelcome spectators such as mosquitoes, biting flies and gnats. Biting insects are attracted to body heat, generated through

activities like running, or just walking in a wooded area. Insect bites are annoying. But worse, they can carry disease.

Insect repellents contain a chemical called DEET, which keeps flies and mosquitoes away. Not all products have the same amount of DEET. A 10% concentration of DEET gives effective and safe protection for adults, according to Health Canada.

• Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts outdoors. • Avoid places mosquitoes breed and live, like standing water. • Stay inside when mosquitoes are most active; dawn, dusk, early evening. • Use insect repellent. Insect Repellent and Children: • Insect repellents used on children should have a small concentration of DEET (less than 10%). • Always apply it for them. • If spraying, be careful not to breathe it . • Don’t spray children’s hands to avoid getting it in eyes or mouth • Under 6 months old: do not use insect repellents with DEET. • Children aged 6 months to 2 years: use a product with the least available concentration of DEET and only once a day. • Children aged 2 to 12 years: use a product with no more than 10% DEET and do not apply more than 3 times a day.


Apr & May 09 • Vol 2 • Issue 3

Elect More Women

Finally, how do we make sure that women’s interests are given a place on the agenda in our economic planning? The answer is more women need to be at the table and that means more women in elected office and more women supporting women seeking elected office. Here in Hamilton there is a non-partisan coalition called Elect More Women that is working to encourage more women to run for office. They offer resources and tools, support and networking to help demystify the nomination and electoral process for women. Unless we have more women in leadership and in particular, political leadership, we will continue to bring forward strategies that represent only half the story. As we used to say “Women Hold Up Half the Sky.” 1. How much does a woman earn for every dollar a man makes?

Chill out: Avoiding Heat Stress High day-time temperature combined with high humidity impairs the cooling effect of sweating and can put people at risk for heat-related illness.

Those most at risk include infants and pre-school children, the elderly, and people with chronic illnesses, mobility problems or those taking certain medicines. Those exercising or working outdoors are • • • • • •

rapid breathing weakness or fainting more tired than usual headache confusion muscle cramps

also more susceptible to heat.

The most severe effect of heat is "heat stroke". In such instances, the body temperature is greater than 40.6 degrees Celsius, there is no sweating, and a person may experience an altered consciousness or coma as well as have difficulty breathing. Medical attention should be sought immediately.

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2. What is the name of the new coalition that wants to see more women in government? Discussion: What programs do you think the government should invest in?

Women’s Health Matters

Signs of Heat Illness:

Tips for Avoiding Insect Bites:

If we are going to invest in high-tech research jobs in the new Innovation Park, the people in those jobs will need affordable, quality child care, especially if we are serious about attracting women to work in traditionally male-occupied science and technology jobs. So, invest in child care which not only employs primarily women, but helps women stay in the workforce and become equal partners with men in both the economy and the family. We know that without this, most women are unable to meet the needs of their children or participate fully in the economic, social and political life of their communities.

Invest in Women, Invest in All

Summer Health & Safety Tips Bug Off: Protecting Your Family From Insect Bites

put their energy into cooperative projects, often using very small investment (such as micro-credit when it is available) to produce goods that can be sold to meet local needs and generate income for their families.

Tips for Avoiding Heat Stress: • Drink lots of water, avoid alcoholic beverages and caffeine. • Stay in the shade if you must be outside. • Wear a hat and loose fitting, light clothing. • Go to an air-conditioned mall, library or community centre. • Take a cold bath or shower, cool off with cool wet towels. • Keep lights off and window covers closed especially on the sunny side of the home. • Avoid intense or moderately intense physical activity. • Never leave a child in a parked car or sleeping outside in direct sunlight. • Ask your doctor or pharmacist about medicine side effects. Fun In the Sun: Get into the Hat Habit Natural sunlight is important to good health. However, repeated exposure to UV rays over a long time increases the risk of sunburn and skin damage. Most skin cancers start in areas of the skin that are exposed often to the sun – the head, face, neck, hands, arms and legs. Hats are the simplest, cheapest form of sun protection and can be worn every day.

To get into the "hat habit", choose a style that you like. If you look good, you will feel good and are more likely to wear it. Choose a hat with a wide brim for more protection.

Hats can protect you from ultraviolet radiation from above but not from reflected radiation. Remember to wear sunglasses and apply sunscreen on your face and neck to increase your level of protection.

1. What are 3 things you can do to help avoid insect bites. 2. What are the symptoms of heat illness? Discussion: What do you do to stay cool in the summer?

Women in Hamilton, Raising our Voices. Issue 1 • June & July 2009

Summertime in the City: Recreation Ideas for the Whole Family Hamilton’s recreation centres, parks, museums and festivals offer plenty of fun things to do. Read on for some ideas.

City of Hamilton Pools and Recreation Centres: The City runs recreation centres, swimming pools (indoor and outdoor) and splash pads in every corner of the city. Find a location near you or online at www. under Culture and Recreation. Or contact the City at 905-546-3747.

You don’t have to go far or spend a lot money to find fun activities for your family this summer. Hamilton’s recreation centres, sports clubs, parks, museums, and festivals will help keep you and your family active, entertained and happy throughout the summer months.

Ontario Early Years: A Place for Parents and their Children up to age 6. An Ontario Early Years Centre is a place for children up to the age of six and their parents and caregivers to take part in activities together. Public Health and different community agencies work with OEYC to provide information and referrals for parents and the whole family. For a centre near you, contact 1-866-8217770 or visit

Family Fun Days at the Art Gallery of Hamilton:

Supies in the Park: “Supies” are City of Hamilton park supervisors who staff different City parks for a few hours a day. They help organize activities like crafts, outdoor games and music. Find out when they will be in your neighbourhood park. Contact City of Hamilton, Recreation Division at 905-546-2424.

Free Stuff at the Public Library: Visit your local library branch and discover fun and free activities like surfing the Internet, playing computer games, watching movies, listening to stories and….oh yeah, reading. Check out summer reading programs like: • Storybook Club: read 12 books with your child and get one book free.

• Enjoy Summer Learning: for newcomer children who need extra help with their English.

For a library branch near you, contact 905-546-3200 or visit

Hamilton Museums: Free Museum Pass Hamilton has lots of exciting museums and you can visit them for free. The Hamilton Children's Museum, Battlefield House, Dundurn Castle and more. Borrow a 2-week pass from the library and your family can enjoy them all at no cost! To view a list of museums in Hamilton visit

“Since it’s so hot outside, I would prefer to spend the day inside an airconditioned room. I would get the penthouse suite in the best hotel in Niagara Falls. I would order a long massage and lie on my stomach watching the falls outside my window.”

At the Hamilton East Kiwanis Boys and Girls Club:

Summer Day Camp for July & August. Games, swimming, crafts, gym-time, computers, field trips. Only a few spots left! $60/child/wk. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Ages 5 – 12. For more information or to register, call 905-549-2814. 45 Ellis Avenue.

Trails and Waterfalls:

Fun, family-friendly art-making activities inspired by AGH exhibitions allow children to make their own masterpieces. $5 per family for non-members. 123 King Street West. For more information call 905-5276610 or visit

Trails and Waterfalls abound in Hamilton. Visit the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club for information and maps on the natural wonders in and around the city. www.

Day Camps for Kids


While most day-camps for kids have a cost, some subsidies are available. For the day camps below, you can ask for an application for a subsidy at the reception desk of each organization. At the YMCA:

Summer Day Camps offer sports and other activities for 4 to 16-year-olds every weekday. Different programs and locations available. To register, contact 905317-4929 or visit 79 James Street South. www.ymcahb. At the YWCA:

“Girls Only” Camp is designed to motivate and encourage young women aged 10 to 14. Activities include body image and self esteem workshops, media awareness and healthy relationship building. The six-week camp will be offered at four different locations throughout the summer: Ottawa Street YWCA; MacNab Street YWCA; Holbrook Elementary School and Cayuga YWCA.

And what would a summer in Hamilton be without a festival? For a list of upcoming free festivals and events for the whole family, visit: festivals.htm ------------------

Visit the Immigrant Women’s Centre’s new downtown site at 182 Rebecca Street this summer for more information on all the recreational activities the city has to offer. Or contact Veronica at 905-525-9676 ext. 225.

Active Kids Camp is a full-day program filled with arts and crafts, sports and leadership training. Camp starts Monday June 29 and ends Friday, September 4.

Women are talking about...

Chie Yamada

Monday to Friday, 9 – 4 p.m. Extended care is available from 7:30 - 5:30 pm for an additional fee. For a location near you or more information, please call 905-522-9922 or visit

Discussion: What are the barriers to accessing recreational activities in Hamilton? Discussion: What recreational activities that you have not tried would you like to try this summer? Discussion: How would you spend your perfect summer day?

The perfect summer day

Joulan Alzab

Sayeda Ferdousi

Sarita Goel

“I would spend it with my family. My mother would be visiting. We would all be together. One place I would realy like to visit with my family is Canada’s Wonderland.”

“I would get up early and go to the Farmer’s Market with my husband. Then we would cook a traditional Bengali lunch. Later, we would go to Bayfront Park with our daughter. We would bring snacks and a soccer ball and spend the evening by the water.”

“I would go to Vancouver and spend the day on the beach. I would also like to see the Rocky Mountains. That’s my dream. And I would go with my whole family: my husband and three children. “

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Apr & May 09 • Vol 2 • Issue 3


Women in Hamilton, Raising our Voices. Issue 1 • June & July 2009

Common Cents: Immigrant Women’s Centre Launches New Program on How to Manage Your Money in Canada

Rana Al-Dibs has been managing her family’s money since she arrived in Canada in 2001. The Palestinian mother of two had to learn to make ends meet, even when there was very little money coming in. She knows how to survive, but sometimes feels like she can’t get ahead. Planning for her family’s longterm financial security has always taken a back seat to meeting their immediate needs.

“Given everything else they have to tackle, some women may lose sight of the need for long-term financial planning,” says Ines Rios, Executive Director of IWC. “We want to introduce them to more options so they can better control their own futures.”

“I was so focused on just getting by when I first came here. But now I want to focus on some bigger goals.”

Until now.

Al-Dibs recently signed up for a Financial Literacy program being offered through the Immigrant Women’s Centre (IWC).

Al-Dibs says she’s taking the course to learn more about investing in her daughters’ future education as well as her and her husband’s retirement. She also hopes to one day buy a house. “I was so focused on just getting by when I first came here,” says Al-Dibs. “But now I want to focus on some bigger goals.”

The six-week workshop is designed to introduce newcomer women to everything from banking basics to investing and mortgages. It aims to enable immigrant women to set both short and long-term financial goals and achieve them faster.

Rana Al-Dibs, Financial Literacy program participant.

The program was designed by IWC Project Coordinator, Nabila El-Ahmed, who will be facilitating each six-week course. El-Ahmed says that newcomer women must overcome specific obstacles on the path to financial security. “Immigrant women face certain barriers to accessing financial services. Language, culture and even gender can all hinder women’s access to information, resources and support networks,” she says.

El-Ahmed gives the example of language as a potential obstacle for some immigrants. “It can be very intimidating for a newcomer woman to walk

into a bank and have a meeting with a financial planner,” she says. “It’s a whole new vocabulary.”

She adds the culture around money is very different in other countries as well. Credit, for example, is not as readily available or prevalent in other places as it is here. In some cultures, charging interest on loans is even frowned upon. An immigrant could quickly get into trouble if they don’t have the proper information about credit cards, interest rates and payday loans. In addition to language and cultural barriers to accessing information, many of Hamilton’s immigrant women also face higher poverty and lower employment rates, making them especially vulnerable to economic hardship.

Women in IWC's new Financial Literacy program collaborate to The IWC feels the time is right map their assets through the Sustainable Livelihoods approach. to offer immigrant women the information they need to help realize economic security Subjects covered include: and control their financial fu• Basic Banking: choosing the right account; fees; interest ture. The three-year program • Budgeting: identifying spending habits; tracking expenses; is made possible through the making a plan generous support of the Status • Savings: retirement funds and children’s education of Women Canada. • Borrowing: mortgages, business loans, managing debt For more information or to register for an upcoming session, contact Nabila El-Ahmed at 905-529-5209 ext. 261.

• Fraud: protecting yourself from credit and debit fraud; identity theft

Time Well Spent: Join us at the Immigrant Women’s Centre this Summer Get behind the wheel!

Come have a picnic!

June 9 - June 25: Learn to drive and build your independence.

July 13 and July 14: 2nd Annual IWC Community Picnics.

Take a G1 Driving Course at the Immigrant Women’s Centre. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1-3 p.m. Course costs $25. Free Childcare Available. Location: IWC, 8 Main Street East, 1st Floor. To register, contact Vivyan at 905-529-5209 ext 233.

Come meet other Immigrant Women’s Centre participants, friends and neighbours at a picnic in the park. Free lunch and snacks. Games, face-painting, puppet shows and animal balloons for the kids. Two Dates:

July 13 - McQueston Park Community Picnic

Get the job! June 22nd – Start of I-WORK: a six-week Orientation to the Labour Market Workshop. Gain skills and build confidence to find work in Canada. Job search strategies, intensive interview coaching, resume and cover-letter writing, and much more. Free childcare for children 12 and under. For more information or to register call Ashley at 905-529-5209 ext. 232.

Summer Camp! June 29 – July 17 – Free summer program for school-aged children of LINC and I-WORK participants. Children aged 6 to 12 years old are invited to join the summer program at the Immigrant Women’s Centre. Morning and afternoon spaces available. Activities will include park outings, cooking classes, bowling and library activities. For more information contact:

(Hamilton Mountain: off Upper Wentworth Street, north of Stone Church Road East). For more information call Abir at 905-387-1100. July 14 – Beasley Park Community Picnic

(Downtown: Wilson and Mary Streets) For more information call Wasan at 905-525-9676.

Start typing! June 10 – June 26 – Learn essential computer skills. Take a computer class at the Immigrant Women’s Centre. MS Word. Wednesdays and Fridays. 9:30 – 12 pm. Course costs $25. Free Childcare Available. Location: IWC, 8 Main Street East. To register, contact Vivyan at 905-529-5209 ext 233.

Vivyan at 905-529-5209 x 233 (Downtown – 8 Main E.) Wasan at 905-525-9676 (Downtown – 182 Rebecca St.)

Abir at 905-387-1100 (Mountain – 1119 Fennell Ave. E.)


Apr & May 09 • Vol 2 • Issue 3

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Please send feedback, letters and submissions to: Or call Dana Borcea at 905-529-5209 ext. 257

Issue #01 - Women's Press (Hamilton, ON)  

The Women's Press is published by the Immigrant Women's Centre in Hamilton, ON.

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