Some women seem to be doing better than other women? Would you agree? Is it a race thing or a mindset issue?
Alberta is home to about 2.1 million women and girls (49.4% of Alberta's population an 11.4 % of Canada's total female population. Alberta is home to 432,895 female immigrants or 10.9% of the national total. In the 2016 census, 51.2% of Alberta's immigrants were female. The five most common countries of birth among immigrant females were the Philippines (69,755), India (31,190), the United Kingdom (28,940) and the United States (16,780).
When women journey to Canada to make Canada their home, for some, life in Canada does not materialise to what life was back home in India, in the Philippines or China. Anecdotal evidence supports the truth that for some second-generation immigrants tend to do better than their parents who spend their lives as a sacrifice for their children.
About one-quarter of people living in Alberta reported being a visible minority in the 2016 census. This is up 40% from five years later. The most common visible minority identities for women and girls in the province were South Asian (23.8%), Filipino (19.4%) and Chinese (17.2%). In some of these groups are the poorest people in our midst. We hide it well. How do we know a poor woman? Or a poor family? How does a woman measure her worth in society? One yardstick is by simple comparison. Compare how well you are doing to your contemporaries. This is not a healthy thing to do I know, but it provides a reality check of where you are.
When you look at poverty levels, it is highest in immigrant families. The Alberta Child Poverty Report 2018 found that Alberta remains to have the largest gap between the rich and the poor of all the provinces with the richest 1% earning 46 times the poorest 10% of the provincial population. You can understand this when you look in Canadian African/Asian families where dual families live on a single income. A home categorised as poor would have a mother who is unable to work or working in a low-income job. You would often find an African/ Carribean/Asian woman working long hours in her home doing a range of chores. Whilst on one level, this shows dedication to family life, over time, that woman tends to lose herself in that marriage. Such situations normally come with an end result of poverty or an inability to grow or develop a career. All roads lead to poverty to an immigrant woman who is limited by her race, accent, education and possibly size.
Stories of tenacity, endurance, resilience abound in our midst. We are our own unsung heroes.
Last night, the writer was at an African store. A random conversation began with a woman who was cleaning the floor and the writer. It turned out that the cleaning woman had a medical background from Ghana. Between putting food on the table, looking after her children, the medical sciences degree is forgotten and life as a cleaner is the reality. This woman is perhaps one of the thousands who has had to make a career change to survive.
Immigrants often find work in health care, hospitality and cleaning industries. Whilst work is dignifying, many times, these jobs leave these women living from paycheck to paycheck. Many of these women are in debt. Many of these women struggle to get by. Forget annual holidays or buying fancy gifts for their children, their consolation is that things will be better tomorrow.
Tomorrow is a dream many of us hope will bring achievements and accomplishments. This becomes a prayer whispered as silent tears flow.
A qualified teacher in Calgary who has struggled to find full-time work as a teacher feels strongly that she has been routinely sidetracked with "you are not the right fit" for our schools' mantra. It has been several years since she moved to Calgary as a qualified teacher.
To be fair, the writer knows many professionals who have gone from one interview to the other and are still (unlike their white counterparts) unable to secure the job of their dreams. Could it be their race?
When a woman cannot get payrise for whatever reason. When a woman cannot upgrade her skills, when a woman struggles to put food on the table, when a woman struggles with poverty, you know that poor woman is taking her children into poverty with her. Poverty is a very bad thing. Poverty looks differently to different women. One thing is clear. Poverty prevents a woman from being all she is meant to be.
This raises a question, what more can the government do to help women who live below the poverty line? If there is any time to begin the conversation about the challenges immigrant women face, it is now.
The Alberta Child Poverty Report adds that additional barriers faced by female-led families include unequal pay, working fewer hours due to familial responsibilities, discrimination based on gender, race and /or sexual orientation or identification.
We all know many people with doctorates who work subservient jobs. We know the doctor from Nigeria who is still yet to pass his exams after five years. We know the lawyer who moonlights with Uber. The accountant who has a cleaning company. We all know someone who has said goodbye to the dream to embrace the reality of Edmonton.
Obviously, these examples are not enough to show that in Alberta today, some women are more important than the other. But, if you don't look the part, you have a foreign name, an unsexy accent and your work experiences are not accepted, where do you begin?
The report goes on to say that one in six Albertan children live in poverty. This number has grown over the past 10 years. 24.1% of indigenous children live in poverty.
Life in Canada is not all it seems. In spite of challenges, Canadian women have shown they have what it takes and against all odds are pushing barriers in science & technology, law and politics, beauty, media, television, poetry , business, politics , empowerment and public speaking and in all fields. In every field, you will find women "slaying" it.
All women should be saluted. Frankline Agbor's Editorial sums up the life of the selfless angels in the women around us. Give a woman a fish, he wrote, you feed a family for a day. Teach a woman how to fish, you take an entire human civilisation to a whole new level.
Can women everywhere stand up? Can we applaud every woman? For trying. Are you a woman? We understand your journey. We stand with you, we do not judge you. We stand shoulder to shoulder with you. We are the future and the future is here. Our message is simple. All things are possible. In Canada when you believe. Mediocrity is not an option for any woman anywhere.
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