'It's safe for you to speak up': Self advocacy program will empower newcomers
Year-long program is a collaboration between the Alberta Somali Community Centre and the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights
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A new program backed by the city will help Edmonton's newcomers fight for their rights.
The Alberta Somali Community Centre and the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights announced the Stride Self Advocacy project this week, a 12-month workshop series starting Sept. 23 that will give newcomers the tools to advocate for themselves in housing, employment and other areas.
“We hope that they will be self sufficient at the end of the program. They will be able to access services, to identify discrimination, to overcome obstacles, to be able to integrate into society,” said the centre’s executive director, Habiba Abdulle.
“Now, people feel more isolated when they cannot access or just do not know what’s going on – am I being discriminated against, is this normal, is this me, is this happening to other people?”
Abdulle started seeking outside support after her centre became “overwhelmed” by clients looking for advocacy.
Some people had been denied a job, struggled to access housing or legal supports, or could not find supports for mental illnesses.
“Our job became consumed with taking individuals to their appointments,” Abdulle said.
For many, the problem was a matter of not having the confidence to be assertive or the information to find the resources they needed.
Others faced blatant discrimination and did not know what recourse they had.
“I had an individual where they were told, ‘I don’t rent to your kind’ … So what do you need to do in that situation?” Abdulle said.
Her organization partnered with the John Humphrey Centre, and together they secured $100,000 in funds from the city.
For the workshops, which will run every three weeks, they will invite members of Alberta Health Services, Legal Aid, the Edmonton Police Service, Alberta Works and Capital Region Housing to help people get better acquainted with their rights and how to work through the system.
The program will target 200 families, including Syrian refugees and immigrants from countries in East Africa, and will train 20 volunteers who can keep the program running in future years.
“I really want to urge people to learn themselves, to understand the system and not be afraid, and to overcome the fear,” Abdulle said.
“I see often people who are so intimidated and so fearful, and I want people to overcome that. You have allies, and it’s safe for you to speak up.”