There is an increasing number of immigrant and refugee people entering Canada. This fact, combined with public pressure from women's groups and community groups, has resulted in a push to have materials developed to serve these populations. Recently, government and mainstream organizations have increasingly been using words such as "culturally-sensitive," "culturally-appropriate," and "collaboration" to demonstrate their commitment to addressing these populations. However, these words have simply become new catch phrases used in government and various mainstream organizations to alleviate any real responsibility these bodies have to actually do something about who controls the production of resources.
At Education Wife Assault, paying lip service to terms such as "culturally-sensitive" is not enough. Instead, we are working towards reclaiming these words by learning to let go of the power that has traditionally rested in the hands of established organizations and to hand over control to immigrant and refugee women to produce the resources. We make a concerted effort at Education Wife Assault to work with immigrant and refugee women and also to distinguish between these two groups of women. Women of color, immigrants, refugees and "visible minorities" (a government term) are not a homogenous group as is so often assumed (for convenience) by those in power. Even within these named categories differences exist between communities. Questions such as "What are the themes that need to be addressed in each community when dealing with wife assault?" and "What skills can Education Wife Assault share with women in the community to address these needs?" formed the basis of Education Wife Assault's most recent projects in Vietnamese and Urdu speaking communities. The result: two entirely different information tools for service providers, activists, and women who are victims of abuse or who want information on their rights in Canada.
The Wellbeing of a Community is in the Wellbeing of Women: A Handbook for Assaulted Immigrant Women is unique in its inception, process and end result. It is one of the rare times material has been produced in a community, by the community, and for the community in collaboration with an established feminist organization. Education Wife Assault's role in the project has been that of a partner. We facilitated hiring project coordinators from each of the communities and worked with them and their communities to set up frameworks, timeliness, and contents for each of the handbooks. The coordinators themselves formed advisory groups from their respective communities to guide the process of these handbooks and to contribute to the content.
Throughout the process, the challenge was how to share power, as an organization who controlled and was responsible for the project funds, with women who were the project. We had to trust the project coordinators and their communities with the content they produced, particularly since it was written in Urdu and Vietnamese -languages that nobody at Education Wife Assault could read or understand. The end result is two resource tools that are the first of their kind. They have not been translated from English - the English resource tool still remains to be developed - and were developed through community participation specifically for both the Urdu-speaking and Vietnamese-speaking communities. In addition, many women from each of the communities worked together to develop new terms for words that had never previously been used in their communities.
The success of both these resource tools demonstrates that there is life beyond paying lip service to terms like "culturally sensitive" and "culturally appropriate." This success continues to grow, as women involved in the project are now working on extensive education and training campaigns in their communities. Through partnership based on sharing power and trust, Education Wife Assault and the Vietnamese and Urdu speaking communities have produced materials that put meaning back into being "culturally-sensitive.
Nupur Gogia is a volunteer with Education Wife Assault. For more information contact Education Wife Assault at 427 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1X7, (416) 968- 3422. This article originally appeared under the title " Education Wife Assault: One Feminist Vision of Change" in vol.6 no.2/3 of Inscan, the newsletter of International Settlement Canada, Research Resource Division for Refugees, Centre for Immigration and Ethno-Cultural Studies, Carleton University, Ottawa, K1S 5B6.