Empowering French-Speaking Immigrant Women

PHOTO: Elaineisgoingplaces320/Nappy

By Monica Tonlé

Last winter, we had the pleasure of hosting two entirely french trainings with women from MOFIF (Le Mouvement Ontarien des Femmes Immigrantes), which translates to The Ontario Movement for Francophone Immigrant Women. These wonderful participants have had to face a triple array of challenges, from not speaking the predominant language in their new country to being newcomers, and women. They took all of their experience and turned it into fuel to propel their projects into action. In my experience, adversity doesn't necessarily make people kinder, but it does make them hurt. It's then up to each individual to show their strength and immerse themselves in their newfound power and humanity. What a powerful group these women were.

The participants were immersed in the full ICL experience through their participation in three courses. First, our foundational Building Skills for Change training started in February where, during six weeks, they learned many essential organizing skills. In May, women who were interested, received additional training and started their journey to becoming trained Francophone ICL Facilitators by taking our ‘Train the Trainer’ course. The final piece of their training was a 'Run for Office' class, where the women learned the necessary skills to run for elected leadership positions. One participant expressed her key takeaway from the ICL training: "Partager son histoire est le début d'une guérison et de la construction d'un pont avec les autres" ("Sharing your story is the start of healing and the construction of a bridge toward others".) 

The facilitation and teaching team were honoured to work with such an active and passionate group. Mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and sisters from all different backgrounds gathered for two hours each week. Their life experiences filled the hearts of everyone present. Raymonde, who wanted to help parents of autistic children, described her life before coming to Canada, ‘’J'avais un présent, mais je n'avais pas de futur, J'avais une bonne vie chez moi et je suis partie pour mieux". ("I had a present but no future. I had a good life where I come from and I left for better".) The students networked and gave each other advice as often the issues of one both resonated with and had been lived by others. Most participants already knew each other, yet they left closer than ever. Laughter often filled all the zoom squares and jokes, milestones, and adorable babies were shared. A palpable wave of empowerment reverberated through the cohort, and those who came without active projects left having offered a helping hand to their partners.

In short, the MOFIF training was a spectacle of life's highs and lows, a channel to create innovative solutions to issues close to this constituency of women. Felicia Samuels, one of the Facilitators, said as a closing remark: ''Je vois des femmes qui ont vécues des choses et qui sont prêtes à changer les choses". ("I see women who have lived things and are ready to change things".)

My oh my, is she right.

PS: Is this the beginning of a wave of French trainings for ICL? Seul le temps nous le dira. 

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The Institute for Change Leaders is a Canadian registered charity that can issue official donation receipts (no. 763310679 RR 0001). ICL is brought to you by the Faculty of Community Services at Toronto Metropolitan University.

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