Resilience and Triumph: Immigrant Women Tell Their Stories, Book Launch Event, October 2016

Resilience & Triumph  Cover PictureBOOK LAUNCH EVENT:  Resilience and Triumph: Immigrant Women Tell Their Stories

Review by Jaclyn T. San Antonio

On October 1, 2016, the University of Toronto’s Centre for Women’s Studies in Education (CWSE) hosted community members for the book launch of Resilience and Triumph: Immigrant Women Tell Their Stories (2015).  Featuring an extensive collection of personal stories from racialized immigrant women in Canada, this new publication represents an important contribution to our public understanding and recognition of the injustices that so many women face when coming to this country.  Despite experiences of exclusion, isolation, racism, patriarchy, and marginalization, the women’s stories reveal their indomitable spirit of resilience in navigating these challenges within everyday lived realities.  It is this capacity for resiliency that is their ultimate triumph in not only coming to Canada but in contributing to its promise and potential.  To borrow the words of Yasmin Juwani, author of the book’s preface, the featured stories are those “of strength and resilience in the face of adversities; persistence in the face of exclusion; rejuvenation in the face of isolation; and above all, hope against all hope.”

The two-hour event was particularly meaningful for the CWSE since the book was dedicated to memory of the late Roxana Ng, former director of the CWSE.   During the presentation, Ng was honour as a “true pioneer in the immigrant women’s field,” whose life and work will continue to inspire generations of feminist activists to come.

Featured speakers at the book launch included members of the Book Project Collective who edited and compiled the collection (including Rashmi Luther, Iram Ahmed Jama, and Monia Mazigh) as well as individual authors who contributed to the collection (including Pramila Aggarwal, Silmi Abdullah, Eve Haque, and Vanaja Dhruvarajan).   The speakers explained the process of putting the book together as a collaborative commentary on women’s “herstory” – one that has otherwise been buried in the traditional nation-building stories of Canada.  Among the most powerful moments of the event was when individual authors read excerpts from their chapters, articulating the details of their experiences and their reflections on what it means to “belong” in Canada—an overarching theme in the book.

Silmi Abdullah, a Toronto-based lawyer, shared the following about her experiences in law school and a time when she was mistaken as the interpreter by a judge.

“It was interesting that despite three university degrees and nine years of post-secondary education my hijab and brown skin had, in the judge’s mind, eliminated the possibility of my being the law student/lawyer-to-be… Ever since I arrived in Canada in 1998, and particularly after 9/11, I have repeatedly had narratives of early marriage, oppression, violence, and male misogyny imposed upon my body.  My outward appearance continues to render me an empty receptacle, a blank slate for assumptions, prejudices, and myths.”

Reflecting further upon this experience in the context of the book’s goals, Abdullah shared that her participation in the project was a conscious effort to challenge dominant narratives about women of colour and women of faith—that is, of women whose stories are too often written for them. “For me,” she explained, “it was a microcosm of my life’s project, which is to write my own life story.”

Overall, the book launch for Resilience and Triumph was provocative, inspiring, and mobilizing.  It provided a forum for voices to be heard, words to be read, and stories to be told.  And in that respect, it was far more than a book launch.  It was a moment for a community to gather together in listening to and celebrating the collective courage and wisdom of racialized immigrant women who have shaped and continue to redefine resilience in the context of contemporary challenges.  Indeed, at a time when world issues emphasize the divisiveness among various social groups, the event and the book is a reminder about finding strength in community.


CWSE at International Women’s Day 2015

CWSE joined the International Women’s Day Rally, March and Fair on Saturday, March 7th in solidarity with the World March of Women with more than 5,000 people from various community groups, organizations and movements.

Many thanks to the organizers, to everyone who joined the march and dropped by at the fair!




IWD Fair at Ryerson Student Centre

The Renaissance Woman: Celebrating the Life and Leadership of Dr. Maya Angelou

                                      On 27th November, scholars, artists, poets, community groups, leaders, researchers, activists, students, entrepreneurs and many others celebrated the life and leadership of Dr. Maya Angelou with the Canadian Academy for Diversity Leadership at the CWSE.

Thanks to Dr. Marilyn Patricia Johncilla for organizing and hosting such a wonderful event.

Here are some photos from the celebration.

DrMarilyn Patricia Johncilla, opening the event!

Dr. Marilyn Patricia Johncilla, opening the event

Mary Wright, CWSE Associate Artist, reading her poem.

Mary Wright, CWSE Associate Artist, reading her poem

Inspirations Studio, a social enterprise project of  Sistering

Inspirations Studio, a social enterprise project of Sistering

Keynote Speaker: Nneka MacGregor

Keynote Speaker: Nneka MacGregor

Murphy Browne delivering her presentation

Murphy Browne delivering her presentation

Maya Angelou's painting by Tray Arts

Maya Angelou’s painting by Tray Arts

Annie Kashamura Zawadi, I Can Testify

Annie Kashamura Zawadi, I Can Testify


Motherhood in Patriarchy: Abolishing the Matrilinear Order

Mariam Irene Tazi Preve, the author of “Motherhood in Patriarchy” (2013) gave a very interesting presentation on October 28 at the CWSE.

Her work, “Motherhood in Patriarchy” pioneers the argument that the western understanding of motherhood is a patriarchal one, based on a long historical tradition of subjection and institutionalization.

She reflected on the development of motherhood and neoliberal principles that leave mothers without choices: combining living in dignity, making a living and caring for their children does not make a “free women” but results in an exhausted generation fallen into the modern “motherhood trap”.

Here are some pictures of the talk and the thought provoking discussion that followed.


IMG_0554  IMG_0558

Changing Laws & Unchanging Statistics: Rape & Rape Laws in India with Reflections from Canada

We now have a video recording of the 17th Annual Dame Nita Barrow Lecture (July 22, 2014).  Poonam Kathuria, the founder and director of Society for Women’s Action and Training Initiatives in India was our Dame Nita Barrow Visitor this year.  Paulette Senior, the Chief Executive Officer at YWCA Canada also joined the conversation.


Soma Chatterjee: Borders are no Longer at the Border

From our Seminar Series Roxana Ng. February 4, 2014. Soma Chatterjee on:

“Borders are no longer at the Border”: Professional Immigrants’ Labour Market Integration & Exclusionary Nationalism

In this presentation Soma Chatterjee discusses the Canadian state’s contradictory practices of welcoming immigrant labour as crucial for its prosperity and simultaneous construction of that very labour as skill deficient. Soma argues that this simultaneous welcoming and expulsion of immigrant labour ensures a form of ideological bordering through which Canada continues to procure exploitable labour, and at the same time, constructs itself as a nation with ‘naturally’ superior standards.

Roxana Ng Seminar Series: “Embodied Writing and Decolonizing Knowledge Production”

We recently completed our year-long seminar series in honour of Roxana Ng, who was the CWSE’s Head from 2009-2013. She passed away January 2013.

This has been one of the most successful series in recent memory at the CWSE, with presentations on subjects ranging from breast cancer, decolonizing yoga, intersectionalities, and mothering. Thank you to everyone who participated in this series!

Above is the recording of Susan Ferguson’s event in the series on February 25th: “Embodied Writing and Decolonizing Knowledge Production: The Social Production of Pain in Lata Mani’s Interleaves

Susan explores the possibilities of embodied writing for social research and its implications for decolonizing knowledge production about and of the body, bringing together disability studies, feminist autobiography, phenomenologically-informated interpretive sociology. Through a close reading of Lata Mani’s memoir of pain and disability, Interleaves, Susan explores the potential for transnational health knowledge to shape embodied knowledge production that treats the experience of pain as a social activity.

Thank you especially to Lata Mani, for allowing the use of the clip in the recording.

Embodied Approaches to Immigrant Labour

We’re a little behind, but here’s the recording of our January 27th event with Adam Perry in our ongoing series in honour of Roxana Ng, on “Image Theatre: Embodied Approaches to Immigrant Labour”.

In this presentation Adam Perry discusses the use of an embodied approach to qualitative research with migrant farm workers. He explores how he engaged with the practice of “Image Theatre” to facilitate counter-discursive stories shaped by workers’ invitation to play in the space between aesthetic representation and social reality. Expect to move around a bit during this presentation.

This event was part of a year-long series of lunch time events in honour of CWSE Head Roxana Ng, who passed away in January 2013. Roxana was a prolific and dedicated feminist whose work focused on globalization, migration, and labour relations; immigrant women and Canadian institutions; Institutional Ethnography; anti-racism; Qi Gong and alternative holistic health and healing; embodied learning; and critical feminist pedagogy.

More information about the series.

We have only one more event in this series, taking place April 3rd at the CWSE. Come check it out.

“The ‘Comfort Women’ & Contemporary Forms of Sexual Violence Against Women”

Next week our own Angela Lytle, director of the Women’s Human Rights Education Institute will be speaking in Vancouver at UBC on the former “comfort women”. Check it out if you can!

The week after that we’ll be hosting the final event in our Brown Bag Series in Honour of Roxana Ng. April 3, with Krista Maxwell & Bonnie McElhinny, on “Racial Hierarchies, Imperial Circuits and Health Care in Canada: Indigenous and Immigrant Nurses in Historic Indigenous Communities”.


Congratulations to everyone who participated in this series. We’ve had amazing turnouts, and really great speakers and discussions. This series emphasized the truly broad scope and far-reaching impact of Roxana’s work.