Women listening to each other's stories at G.R.O.W.'s Calgary Speak Out event

By Nadia Khamsi , August 22, 2017

Our Albertan adventures also gave us the opportunity to work with an organization called G.R.O.W. -Gradual Rising of Women, an Edmonton based organization that seeks to educate and empower immigrant women. According to their mandate: “Women are seeds waiting to receive water in order to G.R.O.W”.

G.R.O.W. believes women need a supportive, encouraging community to thrive and become as powerful as they can be.

G.R.O.W.’s founder, Tracy Folorunsho-Barry moved to Canada from Nigeria by herself at the age of 17 and it was her experience that led to the launch of the initiative. She explains that the lack of support being in a new country and the pressure she faced to only aspire to motherhood showed her that this kind of community was lacking. After a decade of resilience, she was able to go university, launch her own business, raise 5 kids and now hopes that G.R.O.W. can be the place she didn’t have when she first came to Canada.

Tracy Folorunsho-Barry, founder of G.R.O.W.

For Canada’s 150, G.R.O.W. launched Project 150 which hopes to collect stories from 150 inspiring immigrant women in Alberta. The “Speak Out Women Series” that take place in Cafes seek to inspire and empower women by listening to each other’s stories because immigrant’s women stories are not heard enough and other women need to hear that it is possible to beat the odds. It was in Calgary that we got the privilege to hear some of these moving stories and to learn that 60 per cent of minimum wage earners are women of colour; so the odds are against them.  This initiative is now also franchising to other cities with events scheduled for Fall 2018 in Winnipeg, Toronto and Vancouver.

Faith Greaves, who is running for Calgary council and Susan Dut, head of communications for G.R.O.W. agree that life isn’t always beautiful but that it is beautiful for women to share their intimate struggles. They agree that “vulnerability is strength” and refer to the events as narrative therapy because they can help those who are listening and also those who are sharing their stories. It was very moving to hear how supportive Susan and Faith are of each other, despite only just meeting. It was clear that their stories and struggle connect them deeply.

Susan Dut and Faith Greaves speaking at the Calgary G.R.O.W. Cafe event.

As an immigrant woman and the daughter of an immigrant woman, it’s no surprise to me that women are facing pressures that men don’t necessarily have to face. It’s easy for people to forget the hardships of immigration. It seems so glamorous to move to such a great country, people often forget that immigrants have to start from scratch; often having to choose a city, let alone a community to live in, find friends, a job, integrate their kids into a new place etc.

Attending this event made me feel so proud to be a woman. It was so fulfilling to see so many strong, inspiring and accomplished women speak so passionately about their stories and how they’ve been able to conquer their goals and not have to make unwanted decisions; showing that they can be both a business AND homeowner, run for office AND run a home all the same and feel proud about who they are. Organizations like G.R.O.W. and C4C are exactly what communities need to be able to come together, share their stories and support each other to be the best that they can be. Sometimes it’s not just about finding tangible resources, but rather hearing stories from people who have been in your shoes, finding hope and inspiration in their struggles and successes, and simply knowing that you’re not alone can give you the strength you need. The only way we can end the struggle is if we all work together, encourage each other as a community and push each other to make a difference for all the immigrant, women and women still to come.

Listen to some of the G.R.O.W. women, including Susan and Faith, share their stories here:

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